Twenty years ago this month, Mike Eitel opened the Nomad World Pub, 1401 E. Brady St. The Nomad officially welcomed the masses on March 17, 1995, but a few pints (or so) were served a couple of days earlier.
At the time, Eitel – a scrappy world traveler and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – saw bar-owning as an experiment rather than a business venture.
"I thought I would start a bar, drive it into the ground, declare bankruptcy and be back in grad school by the fall," says Eitel.
But that isn’t what the universe – or the thirsty on Brady Street – had in store for him.
"On St. Paddy’s Day (1995) we sold out of every ounce of liquid in the bar," says Eitel. "So I thought OK, at most, I will do this for a year."
Regardless of his modesty and humor, Eitel’s Nomad quickly contributed to a Brady Street that was redefining itself after struggling for a couple of decades. What Eitel thought was an experiment would become the model for the future success of other Brady Street bars.
To celebrate two decades of the Nomad, the bar will offer "Throwback ’95" prices throughout March, featuring 1995 prices all month from 2 to 7 p.m. that include $2.50 taps, $4 tall rails, $3 Lakefront drafts and $3 shots of Jameson.
The anniversary festivities also include parties stretching from Thursday, March 19, to Sunday, March 22. Evan Christian performs on the 19th, starting at 9 p.m.; Mama Digdown’s Brass Band plays the following night and on Saturday, March 20, Nomad hosts an "alumni party," inviting all former workers and patrons down for Marcus Doucette and the Enablers. It’s also rumored that a "hangover party" will be held Sunday, March 22.
The Nomad is the only establishment Eitel owns without partners. He has collaborated with other entrepreneurs under the names Diablos Rojos and The Lowlands Group but, as of last fall, he is again flying solo.
Eitel co-opened Hi-Hat, Hi-Hat Garage, Trocadero, Balzac, the now-defunct Red Light, both Cafe Hollanders, Cafe Centraal, Cafe Benelux and Cafe Bavaria.
"I don’t mind taking risks. If you have no fear of going back to being poor it helps you make really stupid decisions," he says.
Eitel recently stepped back from other business ventures to focus on family. He married and blended two families in the fall of 2014.
The same year, he also threw out the first ball at a Brewers game (his request to kick out a soccer ball was declined), and he was also knighted in Belgium.
After purchasing and razing two run-down homes behind the Nomad on Warren Street, Eitel plans to expand to offer a patio / beer garden along with more enclosed space in 2016.
The Nomad will also offer food and, although he’s not willing at this point to disclose exactly what the menu will offer, Eitel does say it will include a "kick-ass Nomad burger" and food from around the world.
"We’re focusing on the food that’s appealing to young kids when they travel from here to other countries," he says.
Eitel says he has wanted to offer food for a long time because the Nomad, over the years, has become more and more of a soccer bar.
"If you’re at the Nomad, watching your favorite team lose, at least you’d be fed," he says. "We currently have a free toast and bacon buffet, but that’s not a compelling enough draw."
Eitel plans to open the newly remodeled Nomad on New Year's Eve 2016 to coincide with the 20-year-anniversary of the Five Cards Studs’ first performance which was at the Nomad.
This will be the first remodel since the 2010 expansion to the second floor of the building which was previously Eitel’s living space and later the Lowlands Group’s office space.
The Nomad has served as the "first experience" place for people visiting the city as well as a hub for those moving to Milwaukee.
"I’ve had a million conversations with people about moving here and they are trying to figure out what neighborhood to live in. I ask them a ton of questions and then say ‘you need to move to Bay View’ or ‘you definitely need to move to Shorewood.’"
Eitel says he is also considering opening a Nomad-like bar in Miami, Fla. under the direction of his current general manger, Keanen Kopplin.
"Believe it or not, there aren’t any good soccer bars or neighborhood-type joints in Miami," says Eitel.
People, including the author, who have been to the Nomad since day one – or the early days anyway – might remember the Stein Club that for $20 granted members a ceramic mug made by Eitel’s father glazed with a personalized message along with admission to a monthly Stein Club party that included food and a free stein of beer.
Also, the early-day decor included a wall map with stick pins in it, noting where customers were from, and an international lending library.
"The Nomad was supposed to be the bar next to a youth hostel, without the youth hostel," he says. "After 20 years, what I don’t want to do is ruin what people have loved about this space."
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.