Jazz in the Park's decision to cork its carry-in alcohol policy has some booze lovers bummed out, but perhaps a new drinking addition to the Downtown neighborhood might lift their spirits.
Mike Vitucci, whose family owns and operates the 75-year-old Vitucci's Cocktail Lounge at 1832 E. North Ave., is opening Whiskey Bar kitty corner from Cathedral Square Park at 788 N. Jackson St.
Whiskey Bar doesn't officially open until July, but Vitucci invited OnMilwaukee.com over for a preview tour of the spacious venue, which formerly housed Club Belize, a private nightclub, and before that, ParkBar.
To start, the place is huge, a feature further exemplified by split-level seating, clean, sharp lines and minimalist modern décor. Vitucci uses warm, diffused lighting and wide leather chairs, sectionals and sofas to create an intimate setting good for lounging and conversation.
"We've tried to create a dressed up and a dressed down feel," says Vitucci. Expect the staff in nice jeans and black shirts that simply read "whiskey" across the chest. The casual but uniform look will make Downtown professionals in their business attire feel as comfortable as the Jazz in the Park crowd in their summer gear.
The 360-degree walnut-topped bar is the focal point of the front room and although it's stocked with any happy-hour hankering, including craft beer and wine, do not forget this is in fact a Whiskey Bar. Vitucci's menu features the whole range of whiskeys, scotches and bourbons, from the familiar Jameson family to high-end rarities from Japan. Don't know what you might like? Stop in for a Wednesday night whiskey flight or special tasting.
The bar's namesake is actually a not-so-veiled reference to a song by The Doors, Vitucci says.
"Show me the way to the next whiskey bar," sang frontman Jim Morrison in 1967 tune "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)." In tribute, Morrison's 8x10-ft. image will hang on wall near the DJ booth, pool table and plasma screens.
And through the nearby wooden garage door, an extra 4,000 square feet round out the "back bar," a space Vitucci plans to convert into a music venue showcasing local and regional bands. He hopes to have live music going by winter.
The main room will have music in the meantime, but unlike its predecessors, Whiskey Bar is not a dance club. The DJs will spin rock and roll and Top 40 hits.
Despite the year-long extension on the recently passed statewide smoking ban, Whiskey Bar will open this summer as a non-smoking establishment.
It's a wise choice, considering the décor.
"When you see the leather furniture and the light shades, you're not going to want to trash that (with smoke)," Vitucci says.
For smokers, there will be an adjacent outdoor patio space facing Jackson Street that seats 60.
Whiskey Bar will be open daily in summer and Tuesday through Saturday in winter.
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.”