By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 22, 2024 at 11:02 AM

There was nothing ordinary about C.C.’s Elbow Room, the convivial neighborhood bar that opened its doors in February of 2022 at 2850 N. Brookfield Rd. and closed the following year. 

The bar was both a success and a dream come true for owner Cee Cee Ceman who put her heart and soul into bringing life back to the building that formerly held Sabella’s Pub. And when it closed in December of 2023, it wasn’t for any of the usual reasons (lack of business, staffing issues or inflation). Instead, it was a decision made by Ceman that put family first.

And now, industry veteran and Brookfield resident Jake Dehne says he’d like to carry on the legacy that Ceman began under a similar moniker: The Elbow Room

“I want to carry on the tradition and the vision that the bar was built upon,” says Dehne, who closed on the building today, Wednesday, May 22 and hopes to softly re-open the bar during the last week in May.

“In a sense, I see this as a turn-key operation. They started something really great at CC’s Elbow Room, and I want to keep that going.”

A full circle moment

Acquiring the bar is a bit of a full-circle moment for Dehne, who attended Brookfield Academy and moved to Brookfield as an adult. Over the years, he's operated numerous businesses in Milwaukee and is now at the helm of Sydra Group which operates RWB Milwaukee, Lucky Clover and (later this summer) 90s2K, a modern redux of Have a Nice Day Cafe, a retro dance club Dehne ran between 2000-2008.

Now, he says, he sees an opportunity to take decades of ownership experience and apply them to a venue in his own neighborhood.

“I’ve always wanted to venture out into the suburbs,” says Dehne. “And this is perfect because it’s right in my community. I grew up in the area. I remember Buddy’s, and I hung out at Sabella’s with buddies. Even then, in the back of my head, I knew I’d like to own that bar one day.”

What guests can expect

The Elbow Room will be operated by Dehne and business partner Robert Jude, along with Seth Dehne. Jude will lend industry acumen from work with The Bartolotta Restaurants and Lupi & Iris, as well as his current position with the Westmoor Country Club, where he will continue as food and beverage manager.

“Together we can build upon all of the work that Cee Cee put into this bar with the years of experience we bring to the table,” notes Dehne.

The Elbow Room will feature a full bar program with a curated selection of bourbons and tequilas, along with wines, local craft beer and standards like PBR and Miller High Life.

“With regard to the kitchen, we want to focus on a few things and do them really well,” he says, noting that they are likely to focus on offerings like smash burgers, pizza and wings.

But a few other upgrades are also on Dehne’s radar.

“One of the first things we’ll be doing is looking at putting a cover on the patio so that we can keep it activated for three seasons out of the year,” he says. “And from there, we’ll work on adding things like themed specials on weeknights, along with lunch service.

Dehne says they’ll also look for opportunities to be involved with the community, from sponsoring sports teams to participating in charitable events. 

“Ultimately it’s about being part of – and adding to – the community in as many ways as we can,” Dehne says. “I’m looking forward to operating a neighborhood place and hopefully seeing folks I know walk through those doors.”

Dehne says that, if all goes well, he hopes to open softly by May 31, with a grand opening to follow in mid-June. To start, he says the bar will be open Wednesday through Sunday, with additional days and hours added as staffing and demand allows.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.