By Becky Roozen Published May 27, 2004 at 5:35 AM

{image1} Goodbye Gus, hello Lucille.

A stuffed raccoon and an armored knight are the only remains of Gus' Mexican Cantina you'll find at Lucille's Rockin' Pianos (1110 N. Old World Third St.), opening Wednesday, June 2.

Businessman Brian Bernier and Reno, Nev. piano player Ted Oliver are transforming the once-Mexican restaurant into a dueling piano bar.

"A little bird told us that Gus was getting tired, and so we came to talk to him, and he said he'd like to spend more time with his family," Bernier says. "We made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

Bernier claims the new bar will feature some trappings you won't find elsewhere in Milwaukee. They'll have two Yamaha grand pianos pounding out rock 'n roll tunes behind massive mirrors, paintings from a Door County artist, high and low-top seating and a rentable room for corporate parties. They will also serve a menu slathered with wraps, sandwiches and appetizers, says Bernier.

Waukesha restaurateur Bill Krueger will crank out kitchen orders while Bernier manages the bar and wait staff. Oliver will tickle the ivories.


"This has been Ted's dream for the last 15 years, to open up his own piano bar, and I'm just riding his coat tails and helping him do it," says Bernier.

After helping others in the industry for years, Oliver is anxious to be playing in his own bar five nights a week, Bernier says. "I've known Ted for a couple of years and he had said that Milwaukee or Tallahassee would be where he would want to open up his own, so I told him if Milwaukee was the place, 'I'm in.'

"I think Milwaukee is really ready for it. I think the people can have a great time out here."

Just because it's a piano bar, don't think you'll hear easy-listening or blues ballads. "This is no Dean Martin piano bar," Bernier says.

The one-hour shows of old and new rock will be choreographed, says Bernier. The interactive performances are meant to get patrons grooving. "Whether it's 'Greased Lightning' or 'The Chicken Dance,' we hope people will get up and get moving," says Bernier.

That's not the only reason Lucille's should stand out, though.

"A lot of people have a piano bar, but this is a place where good piano players can really show off how well they can play, because it is a piano bar designed by a piano player."

Oliver won't be the only one who gets a crack at the Yamaha grands. "We're trying to get two or three local piano players," Bernier says. "And then we'll for sure bring in one piano player from around the country every week."

So who is Lucille? In Reno, "She loved to come and hear Ted play," says Bernier.

And now this loyal fan has a sign with her name on it. Lucille's Rockin' Pianos is open Wednesday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-bar time, starting June 2. (414) 225-0304.