A lot can go into heading out for a big night on the town. Calling people up, coordinating rides, getting a presentable outfit together, worming through packed clubs – it can be fun, but mostly it's enough to just make you want to stay at home.
But, according to local bar owner William Jenkins, it doesn't have to be that way. Thanks to his latest venture – The Duplex, 785 N. Jefferson St. – those craving the nightlife will no longer have to choose between going out and staying in.
"It's just like home. Everyone is welcome," he said. "We're not a pretentious place; we just want to have fun."
Jenkins, who also runs Ivy Lounge on North 4th Street, saw a unique opportunity in the Jefferson Street building that housed the former Serum bar.
"Our idea was to try to do something different. Jefferson is so diverse; you have a little bit of everything. So, we thought about what we could bring to the street – make it fun, make it interesting, give it some draw," he explained. "The space lent itself to the idea. It's just a beautiful building, (it) has so much character, so why change it? And since it has two levels, why not call it The Duplex?"
True to its name, The Duplex is set up much like, well, a duplex. It features a "family room," "living room" and even a "dining room" on its two levels, with decor that came together much like any regular living space would.
"We hit the internet hard. We really challenged ourselves," said Jenkins. "We were on Craigslist every day, every night looking for great pieces. We were driving all over Wisconsin, grabbing U-Haul trucks just trying to put it together. I think it came out great."
Among The Duplex's varied pieces are a brand-new, handmade bar, refurbished furniture and smaller touches like photos and accessories that help personalize the atmosphere.
"Everything in there has a story," said Jenkins. "The pictures on the wall going up the stairs, each one was hand-picked and there's a story behind each of them. The boar's head in the living room has some history behind it. We got it from a 90-year-old man who shot it with a bow and arrow. I just love it. Some people hate it, but it's a great conversation piece. Every time someone walks into the room, it's the first thing they want to talk about."
The creativity extends to what's behind the bar, too. In keeping with the "home" theme, The Duplex has its own list of specialty cocktails.
"The two that are really kicking butt are the Housewife, and that's kind of like a Cosmo, and the other is the Chandelier, and that's the champagne cocktail we have," said Jenkins.
The weekly specials are still in the works, he added, but they're sure to be a hit – especially considering what's planned for happy hour.
"We're going to be doing a ladies night that's going to be sponsored by Skinnygirl, and of course we're going to have some kind of industry night. We're going to have a really awesome happy hour where I think we're going to do 50 percent off all cocktails from open 'til 7 or 8. Everything we have," said Jenkins.
The Duplex's primary focus is its drinks, but the space is already fitted out with a full kitchen. Guests can expect to see food on the menu as early as the end of the year.
"Things have to be just right. I don't want to just throw any kind of food out," said Jenkins.
Although the bar has only been open for a few weeks, The Duplex has already garnered plenty of attention from the curious Jefferson Street crowd. Opening weekend alone brought in about 1,000 people total, according to Jenkins.
While the turnout could easily be due to the bar's new look, he chalks a lot of The Duplex's breakout success up to his neighbors' willingness to welcome in the new kid on the block.
"It has been crazy. I love Jefferson Street," he said. "I met a lot of people on the street, a lot of business owners like Mike Vitucci, the guys from Mi-key's, Taylor's, other people – they're all very welcoming. That's what I love about Jefferson Street – everyone's looking out for each other. They want everyone to be successful, because overall it'll lend toward the more successful entertainment sector."
Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with OnMilwaukee.com, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."
Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.