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The Riverwest Public House, a cooperative tavern opening at 815 E. Locust St., received a liquor license last week and announced they will quietly start serving on Saturday, March 5. The organizers will later host a week-long grand opening during the first week of April.
"Events will include bike-themed screenings to polka bands," says Public House secretary Shea Schachameyer. "You won't want to miss the party."
The Riverwest Public House is the second cooperative tavern in the country, with one other in Austin, Tex.
Currently, the Riverwest Public House has about 80 members. Memberships cost $40 a year or $200 for a lifetime membership, but once a member pays $200 -- either at once or over the course of five years -- they own five shares of stock in the Public House. Memberships will be available at the bar, but until then can be purchased at Fischberger Variety, 2445 N. Holton St.
The Riverwest Public House will offer a wide variety of beverages, some of which members will receive at a discount. Many of the drink choices will be locally made, including the co-op's flagship beer, Riverwest Stein brewed by Lakefront Brewery, locally-made vodka and rum from Great Lakes Distillery, organic and fair trade coffee from Madison's Just Coffee and Milwaukee's Rishi Tea.
"There will be a wide-range of discounts for members," says Public House organizer and co-owner of Fischberger Variety, Sarah Ditzenberger. "If someone goes out regularly, they should save the $40 a year through our discounts. Riverwest Stein will always be discounted for members."
According to Schachameyer, Milwaukee artist Paul Kjelland was the driving force behind the renovations which included ripping out carpeting, tile restoration, painting and the construction of a stage.
"Paul has taken the lead on taking the bar from how we received it—a cavernous room with black walls and ceiling and grey carpeting—to a colorful venue ready to provide a welcoming gathering place for our community," says Schachameyer.
The walls will be adorned with art by local artists from the Just Seeds Collective Collin Matthes and Nicolas Lampert. Erik Thomas, a Milwaukee native and lifetime member of the Public House, is fabricating bike racks out of recycled bicycle parts from his current residence in Tucson. Also, the group is accepting design concept submissions for the building sign.
Other key players behind the co-op are Gene Gallistel, Elena Pires, Lisa Schelling, Joshua Sutton, Wendy Mesich, Gibson Caldwell, Peter Murphy, Steve Whitlow, AJ Segneri, Paul Szeziewski and Hannah Mog.
"It would be impossible to even estimate the number of hours these folks have volunteered throughout this past year to get everything in order for the Public House to open. All that can be said is, feel free to buy them a drink, tip them well or give them a high-five when you see them," says Schachameyer.
So far, the process to open the co-op has, overall, gone smoothly. Schachameyer says it has been a lot of work, but the group worked together to make it happen.
"One of the methods we've utilized which has allowed us to stay focused and not become overwhelmed has been to create detailed work plans which list all of the tasks at hand, set deadlines and allow the work to be delegated amongst all of us," she says.
And, like all huge undertakings, there were a few bumps in the road. And the original plan to include food has been delayed for a little while, although healthy snacks will be available.
"Of course there have also been the unexpected surprises—outdated boilers, doors that need to be brought up to code, faulty draft lines, broken compressors—that have provided unanticipated panic attacks and necessary problem solving. We've kept our heads above water though and despite some of these surprises," says Schachameyer. "Honestly though, we all must be a bit insane for this really has been a mountainous undertaking."
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.