The north half of South 59th Street between National and Greenfield Avenues in West Allis will be closed from May 24 until Nov. 15 to create Kegel’s Beer Garden, in collaboration with the nearby Public Table restaurant, says Kegel's co-owner Julian Kegel.
The spot is directly adjacent to Kegel’s Inn, 5901 W. National Ave., which celebrates its 95th anniversary this year. The bar and restaurant – especially renowned for its Friday fish fry – is still owned by its founding family.
The seasonal closing of a street that’s described as "lightly used," will create a public space for live music and table service of beer and food from both Kegel’s and its neighbor, Public Table, 5835 W. National Ave.
"The layout of this area presented a unique opportunity to explore outdoor seating between two popular restaurants," says West Allis Mayor Dan Devine. "The combination of the classic German offerings from Kegel’s with the innovative menu at Public Table will offer residents and visitors a unique experience.
"They can dine outside in a new greenspace while enjoying a beer garden feel similar to what has been so popular in our County Parks."
The two restaurants will collaborate on operating the patio. Each will hold its own liquor license and the space will be split down the middle, much like Laverne and Shirley’s apartment when they were feuding. Except in this case, the main characters are getting along.
The space will be furnished with Hofbrau Beer Garden tables, overhead lighting, shade umbrellas and propane-fueled heating fireplaces.
The separate areas will be delineated by planters, signage and "small amounts of street paint."
"I’d like to give a lot of credit to the City of West Allis for helping make this a reality," says Kegel. "I thought it might be realistic that we’d be able to put in a beer garden by the centennial celebration of Kegel’s Inn, but we have partners like Public Table, Hofbrau and Beer Capital who all worked together with Dan Devine and the rest of City Hall.
"I’m proud of our mayor and his ability to communicate his vision, and the team below him that is helping to make the city more vibrant every day."
Kegel says that residents of the block were consulted and signed off on the project.
Along with news of other restaurant patios in the city, Kegel believes his new outdoor beer garden will help West Allis' burgeoning dining scene continue to grow, while maintaining its historically down-to-earth feel.
"Today, there is yet another reason to shed the rusty reputation of West Allis," says Kegel. "In my opinion, just the mere association with its blue-collar roots gives West Allis the positioning for early adopters to gain a huge advantage of shaping the future of this community within the greater city.
"With better building stock and higher quality housing than much of the county, it’s apparent that early adapters, especially restaurateurs, are again, starting to realize the successes of serving a community with such history and stability. This beer garden, the new developments and future revitalization efforts are only going to add to that. I think it’s time to be more open to what’s already happening here and give West Allis businesses another look."
The plan is to close the street this year as a test-run. If it is successful, the street could become a permanent pedestrian mall all year long.
The garden is expected to open for Kegel’s 95th anniversary celebration the weekend of May 24-26. The City of West Allis plans to deliver the necessary barricades during the week of May 16.
"The road ahead is no guarantee, but we're glad to be here in our 95th year, closing 59th Street with the help of Public Table, Hofbrau, Beer Capital and the City of West Allis all committed to the success of this project," Kegel says.
"It’s another win for energy the city of West Allis and for anyone who likes eating delicious food and drinking tasty beverages outside on a beautiful day, in this beautiful city."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.