By Mario Ziino Published Dec 19, 2003 at 5:14 AM

{image1} There's new life in the old place.

Once known as the East Side's first and finest beer garden, RC's is getting a new face-lift, thanks to Mike Foy.

The new manager of the once vibrant establishment at 1530 E. North Ave. believes that RC's can and will regain its popularity in the Milwaukee bar scene.

"I have some fresh ideas," says Foy, days before RC's grand reopening, on Fri., Dec. 19. "I think this bar can be successful. (Owner Rick Schmidt) had enough interest in the ideas to give me the okay to get things going again."

Closed to the general public for several years, RC's had been recently used as part of the Milwaukee International Film Festival. Back in November, a "Jazz Orgy," featured music by the Jesse Sheehan Quartet and Soul System. The event was a big hit.

"We get a lot of people that remember the old RC's," adds Kory Garbelman, marketing director of a number of Schmidt's establishments, including Brew City Bar B-Q and Water Street Brewery.

"After the Milwaukee International Film Festival, there was an overwhelming demand from the people that stopped in. People wanted it to be open again. People wanted to return to their old stomping grounds."

Foy, who bartended the event, says he approached Schmidt with a plan to revive the bar. "I made a proposal to RC about reopening the place on a permanent basis," he says. "He liked the idea."

Since initially closing, Schmidt had used the building to host private parties and special occasions, according to Garbelman.

"This place is so spacious, there are a number of possibilities for its use," Garbelman states. "But right now, the primary focus is to get it going again. We want to invite the community back in and say, 'we're here now on Fridays and Saturdays, come on in.'"

Foy concurs. "There are endless possibilities with this place," he points out. "But we're going to take it one step at a time. We'll let our patrons dictate what they want us to do."

The wooden booths, the long bar and a vast beer garden behind the glass doors will rekindle the memories that made RC's what it was for more than 25 years.

"I know the history of this place," Foy says. "The patron's made it successful in the past. I think it's still a classic place. It was very popular then and I think it can be once more. It has a great location and size.

"It just needed a little TLC. That's what we're trying to do here. We're trying to keep the classic RC's pub theme and style with a modern flair and updates."

Foy, a Milwaukee native and UW grad, adds that RC's will have a full compliment of beers, martinis and cocktails, though initially, it will not offer any food.

He believes the new RC's will attract a young crowd but also bring back some who remember the place for what it was some 25 years ago.

"We're going to go slow and adapt," he says. "We'll take advantage of the opportunities, listen to patrons and grow with them. Our main objective is to create a fun, comfortable establishment for all age groups.

"I want a 22-year-old college student to be able and come in here. Or, let's say my sister and her husband come in here and want to have a martini and sit in one of our booths. We want to appeal to everyone. We're going to play on RC's history."

Garbelman thinks that with Foy's plans, it will be just a matter of time before RC's will be back on the map.

"Mike has the talent and the experience and the trust to make RC's an attractive bar on North Avenue, again," Garbelman says.

RC's will be open Fridays and Saturdays.