When the old Union House Saloon shut its doors for good in early 2009, we knew, er, hoped it wouldn't remain vacant for long. The charming, cream city brick building just north of National Avenue on 2nd Street is too great a space and location to sit idle. Thankfully, a group of Milwaukeeans thought the same, and by the year's end, Sabbatic was born.
Sabbatic opened Dec. 10 under the careful eyes of a four-person ownership group. Sam Berman and Jay Stamates are the owners and operators while Marty Michaels and Nick Paulsen, owner of the West Side's Liquid Johnny's, are owners / investors.
"The four of us create a nice portrait of different influences," says Berman. But it's clear that one influence stands out above others. Sabbatic is a punk rock bar (the "S" in its logo is a footprint from a Doc Martin boot), Berman says, though claims it isn't exclusively for those with a penchant for power chords.
"My rule of thumb is, I would never want to make a bar my mother wouldn't want to come to. We want it to be a place where someone who is really into punk rock would want to hang out, but a place they'd also want to take their parents. I don't believe that you can be everything to everyone, because then you end up bring nothing to anyone. We want to be an inviting place where people come because they feel welcome."
You can't help but feel welcomed upon arrival. Berman and his staff are friendly and inviting, and the whole place -- it's not huge, but there's room for a pool table and a few tables away from the bar -- feels very comfortable; very Milwaukee. The name Sabbatic is taken from the word sabbatical and was intended to evoke the feelings of rest and relaxation, says Berman.
Sabbatic doesn't overdo it with neon signs nor frivolous liquor promotion banners. The walls are classy and clean with rich, warm hues and the occasional Dead Kennedys or Misfits poster. The simplicity works well because it's more of a beer-and-a-shot kind of place than a posh lounge, although the capable staff is willing to give just about any drink request a go.
"We're not At Random, and we're not trying to be," says Berman. "What we are is an excellent corner bar."
The community has already embraced it as such. Neighbors and friends from Milwaukee Brewing Co. and the new Ten Bells across 2nd Street and Super Star Tattoo down the block can been seen on any given night enjoying the two-for-one happy hour deals. Sabbatic also is working with Sean Henninger, owner of 2nd Street's Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria to offer personal frozen pizzas for when those bar-time munchies hit.
"Walker's Point is really a hidden gem in Milwaukee," says Berman. "There are a lot of great businesses down here already and there is a lot of potential for growth. We're just happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it. In five years, this will be the new Brady Street."
Sabbatic is open Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”