By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 03, 2002 at 6:01 AM

Until recently, the nightclub space below Beans & Barley was just another cool location that couldn't shake the hex.

Finally, Mike Vitucci had a vision: to open a warm, Eastern-themed bar in the place formerly known as, ESO 2 and Esoteria.

Vitucci, a successful tavern owner, is also a yoga enthusiast who recently received his first mantra -- a sacred, repeated prayer, meditation or incantation containing mystical potentialities.

The sweet collide of Vitucci's two worlds resulted in Mantra Lounge (1905 E. North Ave.), a stunning environment that once again places Milwaukee on the short list of modern cities that has just as much edge as it has heart.

Vitucci is quick to credit the work of his collaborators, namely builder and artistic designer Scott Genke, a graduate of UWM's architecture program who was the mastermind behind Redroom and Apollo Café.

Genke designed Mantra on his computer in only three weeks, and then built much of the interior over the next two months. "It took a lot of hounding people to get everything done so quickly," he says. "That, and very few breaks."

But the hard work paid off, something you can read on Genke's face, who stood in the middle of the packed V.I.P. lounge during a private, pre-opening party with a look of pride and awe.


The once-sprawling space was smartly divided into four areas, all of which represent one of the chakras -- the seven centers of spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy.

The club area is the most frenetic, featuring a sunken dance floor swirling with light-projected Eastern images and DJ's perched in a lotus flower-inspired booth, spinning records from around the world. "We wanted the DJs to be the center of attention, to be worshipped," says Scott.

The V.I.P lounge next to the dance floor area is quieter, due to lack of speakers. Plush chairs and beautiful tin panels on the walls --restored by Genke -- make this a very comfortable place to people-watch the dance floor chaos as well as those crowded around the long, main bar. (There is a second bar in the martini lounge.)

If your heart chakra craves a quieter environment, slip into the beautiful cove off of the martini bar. This red, romantic den is both cozy and cool, with fantastic wooden orb light shades that cast a soft, calming glow.

The before-mentioned martini bar has a retro - Eastern decor, painted in beautiful shades of gold and green. It's a lively space to party, and doesn't feel like you're in a dance club.

Also worth noting is the large statue of Sid Hartha in the vestibule, imported from Tibet, and simple murals and vintage mirrors to provide good feng shui. The only thing missing is a water element.

Regardless of your mood, Vitucci and Genke created a diverse space where you can unleash your wild side or blend in like a chameleon.

Good work, Grasshoppers.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.