By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 16, 2004 at 5:30 AM

{image1}In a deck of tarot cards the "death" card symbolizes new beginnings, something Zodiac Luxury Lounge owners Renee Bebeau and Harvey Opgenorth are about to experience.

The two decided to close the non-smoking bar next month after a year of ups and downs, both professionally and personally.

"I look at the Zodiac as a year-long experiment that, for me, was totally successful," says Bebeau, who claims she learned a lot about her strengths and weaknesses. "I think the Zodiac is a prototype of businesses to come."

Bebeau says the 2nd and Mitchell Street location made it difficult to regularly attract large crowds. Although the semi-secluded building originally intrigued her and Opgenorth because it reminded them of the beatnik club in the movie "Bell Book and Candle" that the bar was modeled after, they eventually found it to be a deterrent.

"At first we thought it would be fun for people to find us, like a treasure hunt," says Bebeau. "But it's a destination spot, unlike Brady Street where people spontaneously pop in."

The subtle signage and lack of windows also made the lounge difficult to identify. Although three large picture windows were installed last month, Bebeau says she waited almost a year for them to arrive and it was simply too little too late.

"I also realized how much money you need to really keep something like this going, and we were on a shoestring budget," she says. "And unfortunately, people who don't smoke often don't drink a lot either. A lot of people who came here ordered water or soda."

The building is in the process of being sold to a new owner who will reopen it as a bar, but one that allows smoking. Bebeau recommends downtown's Ardor, 611 N. Broadway, for those craving a smoke-free environment.

Bebeau admits that the bar-owner lifestyle became unsavory, especially after her relationship with Opgenorth dissolved, and she met and married a man she calls her soul mate.

In the future, Opgenorth, a visual artist and graphic designer, will pursue creative endeavors and Bebeau plans to travel extensively with her new husband, work as a cosmetologist and expand her beaded jewelry business.

"The fun part for me is opening the business," says Bebeau, who owned three businesses prior to the Zodiac including Adambomb Gallerie (now Adambomb, a tatto shop on Martin Luther King Drive.)

Sat., Feb. 7 is the Zodiac's last night and the bar will remain open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until then.

"Fridays will continue to be 'Spaghetti Friday' and we will still do 'Sushi Saturdays,'" says Bebeau, who also plans to throw a birthday bash for herself on Wed., Feb 4.

Other upcoming Zodiac events include Sun., Jan. 18, Sun., Jan. 25 and Sun., Feb. 1: The Shimmy Sundays Belly Dance Hour at 2 p.m. with a $7 cover (Note: The Zodiac is not open for regular business on Sundays); Fri., Feb. 6: Full-Moon Wig Night with House DJs; Sat., Feb. 7: Holly (from One Drum) & Friends, 10 p.m., $5 cover.

"We want to whoop it up until the end and then start our happy new lives," says Bebeau.

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.