When Casey Foltz and his wife, Gretchen, saw the "for sale" sign out in front of Puddler's Hall, 2463 S. St. Clair St., the couple was immediately interested because, among other reasons, the Bay View business is only six blocks away from home.
Cele Stepke has owned the property since the early '90s and, over the years, leased it to several operators. The Foltzes were unable to negotiate an all-out sale, so they worked out a partnership with Stepke and plan to reopen the business in late September.
At this point, the goal is to open the bar on Friday, Sept. 23 and have a grand opening party on Friday, Oct. 14. The couple have applied for, but not received, their permits to serve liquor and host live music.
"We're going through the liquor license process right now. Assuming all of our bar equipment arrives on time, and the liquor license goes through without any hitches, we should be able to open before the end of the month," he says.
Casey says he will keep the Puddler's Hall name because of the history associated with it. Built in 1873, the hall was a gathering place for ironworkers – called "puddlers" – who worked at Bay View's Rolling Mills in the 1800s.
The area is historically significant because in 1886, more than 3,000 workers marched from St. Stanislaus Church (on 5th and Mitchell Streets) to the Bay View Rolling Mills to protest inhumane work conditions and in support of the then-unprecedented eight-hour work day. The next morning, the Wisconsin militia appeared and opened fired on the protestors, killing seven, after apparently receiving orders from Governor Jeremiah Rusk.
The building served as numerous bars and restaurants over the years, including the well-known Barbiere's. In 2003, Tim Capper, who operated Colonel Hart's Pub in Wauwatosa, took over the place and did a lot of refurbishing at the time.
The new Puddler's Hall will feature a large tap and bottle beer selection and within six to 12 months will offer its own on-site brewed beer as well. There will also be live music, Packers, Brewers and Bucks parties, and, possibly, kickball and softball leagues next summer.
"We'll be looking to bring in a couple of ping pong tables, and have several other ideas in store for entertainment within the hall," says Casey.
Casey says he and Gretchen plan to spruce up the interior with new paint, furniture and fixtures, but overall, want to keep the atmosphere and the vibe similar to what it has always been. He is looking into grants to fix up the exterior in the long-term future.
Puddler's Hall will be open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Casey, an IT manager at Robert W. Baird, plans to continue working full-time and will have one full-time staff member. Operating Puddler's Hall is his first business venture of this kind.
'It's definitely a very different experience from my day job," he says.
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.