"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Recently, Shannon and Gina Stangel bought the former The New Yorker, 645 N. James Lovell St., and renamed it The Mason Jar.
The new name was picked, in part, because the couple have a 2-year-old son named Mason.
"And yes, we do serve all of our drinks from Mason jars," says Shannon Stangel. "However, we are still searching for our own legendary drink to become our signature cocktail."
We stopped in on a recent Friday night for some jars of Guinness. At first glance, it seems to have a similar look and feel, but upon further inspection, changes are noted. The old carpeting was replaced with hardwood floors – and the couple also painted the interior and built a real stage for the karaoke / live music nights.
"In addition we have three 55-inch flat screen TVs that will be mounted this weekend and new sound equipment will be installed by the end of the month," says Stangel.
According to Stangel, The Mason Jar is still a work in progress, but he and Gina are working to get their establishment known as an intimate live music venue as well as a karaoke bar which is what The New Yorker was most famous for.
Currently, The Mason Jar hosts live music every Saturday night. Plus, they offer karaoke every Wednesday and most Friday nights and have a "College Night" on Thursdays.
Starting in March, they will partner with local performers and promoters to begin Open Mic Mondays as well as a hip hop karaoke show at the end of the month.
"We have a lot of things in the works, and lots of ideas, I am now just trying to sort through all of them and find the ones that work," says Stangel. "I think overall we offer great service at great prices."
For 10 years, Gina was a bartender and manager at Water Street Brewery in Delafield. Opening their own bar was not so much of a lifelong dream, but an opportunity that came around at the right time.
"Actually, I have a lifelong dream to become a high school football coach," says Stangel. "I have been coaching youth football for many years and continue to play in the Wisconsin State Football League at the age of 37."
Shannon, who also holds down a full-time day job, says he decided to open a bar because it worked around his schedule, was something he and his wife could do together and it folded in her decade of service industry experience and expertise.
"We decided that (bar ownership) could be a good fit for us," says Stangel.
The couple started its search online and signed up to receive alerts for bars that were for sale in the Milwaukee and Waukesha area. When the Stangels – who live in Waukesha – received a notice that The New Yorker was available, they went to check it out.
"At first appearance, we were not very impressed. It was dated and quite different from the ‘college sports bar for sale’ ad I had received. So we dismissed The New Yorker and continued our search, but there was something telling me to give it another look," says Stangel.
He went back there a few times and watched the crowd and the longer he stayed there, the more he began to really like it. He started a dialogue with longtime The New Yorker owner, Sal Monreal.
"Finally, we made an offer and after a few back and forths we were able to make a deal. I never met Sal prior to making him a purchase offer, but he is a great guy. Very helpful and genuinely cares about how we are doing," says Stangel.
The Mason Jar, like The New Yorker, has an extremely diverse clientele which is one of its most intriguing aspects. Perhaps because of the centralized Downtown location and because karaoke appeals to many different people, every night features a refreshing combination of customers from many different corners of the city.
"We try to have something for everyone here," says Stangel.
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.