"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!
Jess McCluskey, one of the three owners of Bay View's Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., moved to Milwaukee seven years ago. She doesn't feel like talking about exactly why she left her native Australia for her new home. "Lets just say cheese," says McCluskey.
McCluskey is, however, more willing to talk about why she wants to stay in Milwaukee, specifically in Bay View: "I love that we're so close to the lake, and that there are so many opportunities here. I've made a home here, and I can't imagine leaving all my friends."
Her bar, which opened last summer, has quickly become one of the go-to spots in this South Side neighborhood. Maybe that's because all three owners all work behind the bar, and their passion for their business really shines through.
Burnhearts does a steady business all day, then gets quite crowded once the sun goes down. For a new bar, it's built a loyal following. During this interview, for example, a regular walked in, holding a wooden sculpture of a woman's torso. He presented it to McCluskey, 27, who promptly put it on the corner of the bar along with other knick-knacks given to her by patrons.
Something about this place, though it's still new, feels like a hangout that's been around forever.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been a bartender?
Jess McCluskey: I've been a bartender for seven years. I worked in Australia for a while, then at the Nomad for about four years, and now I'm here.
OMC: What's your signature drink?
JM: A beer.
OMC: Really? What's your favorite beer to pour?
JM: Guinness. I like the avalanche.
OMC: What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen a bar patron do?
JM: The most ridiculous or the most dirty? I've seen a lot of boobs at The Nomad. The Rhythm Chicken came in and played in the women's bathroom during the Bay View Bash.
OMC: Have you ever had to break up any bar fights?
JM: Oh yeah. About a month after we opened, Tanya (Bruski), myself and the door guy got pretzels spat at us. We were trying to get the lady out of the bar, and I got pretzel crumbs in my hair.
OMC: Were punches thrown?
JM: Yes, but not at us, thank God.
OMC: What the worst pick up line you've heard?
JM: "You speak really good English."
OMC: What's the best?
JM: There isn't one.
OMC: What's the best part about bartending and owning a bar?
JM: The best part is being able to socialize with our customers. We've got a great clientele. This bar needed to happen on this corner. It was empty and it's perfect. Bay View needed it.
OMC: What do you like least about it?
JM: The worst part is cleaning up after them. I leave at 3 or 4 a.m. Owning Burnhearts is one of the coolest things I've ever done, but it's also one of the most tiring things I've ever done.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.