Because a big part of my job is to keep my finger on the pulse of Milwaukee's ever-changing and evolving marketplace, I've become hyper-aware of the city's turnover rate when it comes to bars and restaurants.
It's always disappointing reporting on the closing of local businesses, but it's often doubled when I distinctly remember interviewing the hopeful owners as they prepared to open ... and it wasn't that long ago.
Sometimes it's shocking, other times I'm less surprised, especially given the economic state as of late.
But sometimes I wonder if there really are locations in Milwaukee that, try as they might, are destined for disaster as a new business replaces the previous one year after year after year.
Two years ago, OnMilwaukee.com compiled a list of "black hole bars" in Milwaukee, not because we wished to see any business fail, but more so because we noticed this fascinating trend and just couldn't help ourselves.
I've been noticing a similar pattern in the past couple of years within the Third Ward.
Take 184 Broadway, for example. In May 2007, we reported that a new martini lounge called Penthouse on Broadway was opening. The bar was operating only 12 months when owner Dona Myers decided to close it, gut it and re-open in June 2008 as Brothers Café.
This salad, soup and sandwich spot seemed an ideal candidate for the Third Ward, offering quick and easy lunch options for Downtown workers. They had a decent salad bar, which is hard to come by in that neighborhood, affordable meals and ample outdoor seating. But, before we had a chance to get there this season, Brothers Café has shut down, less than a year after opening.
It makes me wonder about the bar space at 133 N. Jackson St. In April 2008, we wrote about the new Viridarium, an upscale martini lounge on the corner of Jackson Street and Corcoran Avenue, facing the expanse of the Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds and beyond that, Lake Michigan.
I stopped in to interview the owners about their new venture, though I never made it back and never heard a word about it from anyone else. I guess it came as little surprise, then, when I rode past on my bike the other day and noticed a sign announcing the new Chic Lounge would open there this June. Alas, another one bites the dust in less than a year's time.
I don't yet know much about the new Chic, except that according to the Historic Third Ward Association, it will be a bar and grill. Here's to hoping it will do better than its predecessor.
Is it the recession, or are there just some spaces in this city that can't survive no matter what the concept? It's strange, since both locales mentioned seem desirable, with good foot traffic and a supportive surrounding business community. What does Milwaukee want, if not these places?
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.”