By Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter Published Jul 31, 2013 at 4:02 PM

It may be a private club, but the River Club of Mequon isn’t terribly private. And they like it that way.

"I think our membership sees other private clubs spending a lot of money just to keep people away," says director of marketing John Haines. "We dig having all kinds of people come here, and bringing their friends."

The River Club is unique in that its restaurant, nines at the River Club, is open to the public and boasts a lot of family-friendly seasonal programming. Nines currently offers two public nights of live music every week – Nights at the Nines on Wednesday evening and ninesLIVE on Thursdays – and their lineup reads like a who’s who of Milwaukee musicians.

On a recent Wednesday evening, Tweed Funk kept things lively on the Sunset Deck for Nights at the Nines. The large crowd sipped on wine and beer and noshed on the abbreviated nines menu offered on the Sunset Deck, which overlooks the sprawling 27-hole golf course and pool area, while kids ran around with their friends as the sun went down.

The River Club has seen considerable renovations since retired race car driver Tom Weickardt bought it in 2011 (it was previously the Mequon Country Club). Staff reports that it has become a popular destination for weddings and events, offering the services of noted planner Lawrence Kreiner, whose clients have included celebrities and even a few presidents.

Haines says that membership (which is currently a little less than 500 people) at the River Club is young and family-oriented, which is reflected in the club’s large state-of-the-art Playdium Children’s Activity Center, pool and Technicolor Splash Pad featuring 32 fountains and geysers and a kiddie slide.

A lot of people wondered what Weickardt was thinking when he bought the club in 2011 for over $1.5 million, and development hit a few road bumps, including clashes with the local homeowners in the Ville du Parc neighborhood. After all, investing in a state-of-the-art private club might seem strange in the current economy. But one thing that Milwaukee – and its suburbs – has always responded to is the idea of good, clean unpretentious fun. And the River Club is prides itself on being unpretentious – and fun.

"We took away the ‘public welcome’ sign at the entrance (to nines)," said Haines. "It makes it sound like the public is tolerated. We really want people to know the public is welcome here."

Though amenities like the pool, golf course, fitness club and swanky Aftermath lounge are for members only, Haines and the entire River Club staff are keen to make non-members feel welcome at nines, which is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The chic, contemporary restaurant features a bar area and expansive dining room, as well as the state’s largest Cruvinet with 44 wines by the glass.

The menu offers re-imagined New American cuisine, and you can choose from a diverse variety of entrees like the pricier pheasant or duck, indulge in "flight service" (choosing three small plates for a little bit of everything) or keep it simple with sandwiches, pizza or burgers for prices that range from $11 to $14.

In addition, the Playdium is open to the public whenever nines is, so kids can have fun in the arcade or play over 30 different games on the EyePlay Interactive 3D while their parents have dinner or drinks. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Playdium offers themed events, supervised childcare and a pizza buffet. The first hour is free of charge, while the second hour is $5 for members and $10 for guests of nines.

"By inviting everyone to enjoy the great food and captivating atmosphere at nines we’re able to create a vibe that’s fresh and contagious. Along with our members, the whole community, various sports and media figures, visitors from out of town, our free weekly live music events – all of this reflects an ‘open house’ mindset at nines," said Kathy Lanser, entertainment director at the River Club.

"That exposure only jacks up the mounting buzz about what’s happening at The River Club and one reason why we’ve been able to add over 300 new members. Pretty remarkable in these post-2008 economic times."

Visit for a complete listing of all live music and events at nines.

Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter

Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.