Paint the town Redbar
Carrie Wisniewski, a former Harley-Davidson employee and her partner, Nick Schell, who currently works for Harley, opened their biker-friendly but not biker-exclusive bar called Redbar a few weeks ago. Wisniewski and Schell ride Harleys, too, but it's important to them the message that Redbar is for anyone revs loudly and clearly.
"Most bars have niches, but we don't," says Wisnewski. "Anyone is welcome. We welcome diversity here, from gay to biker to the most beautiful bartender you've ever seen."
The space, which formerly housed Majdecki's and later, Cool Waters, has been remodeled inside and out. It is now aptly painted red and both the first floor and second floor are tributes to aspects of Milwaukee history, from vintage beer signs to sports bobble heads to an antique motorcycle license plate.
"We were collecting stuff for years, but it's funny, you think you have more until you start putting it up on the walls," says Wisniewski.
There's also a shiny, new motorcycle motor on the wall that a friend gave to her at the grand opening. The bar opened to friends and family on July 2 and to the public on July 3.
On the ground floor, the main room has a shuffle board table and there's an attached game room as well. Pool, darts, Golden Tee and video bowling are all on site. Six flat screen television adorn the walls and Wisniewski says football parties and other sports-related celebrations are on deck for the bar.
"If you want to yell and scream at the TV, this is the place to go," she says.
The full bar features 10 beers on tap, all Wisconsin-brewed beers except Guinness, and a large selection of bottled beer, too. Happy hour is from 2 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and offers $2 rail drinks and two-for-one taps.
There are also six different "Happy Meals" available, which are discounted combinations of a bottle of beer and a shot. The Light Weight, for example, pairs a Twisted Tea and a shot of Redbar's homemade apple pie schnapps.
Next summer, Wisniewski hopes to build a patio and also in the future, she plans to serve food, but as a first-time tavern owner, she wants to build up her business and get the bar aspect running smoothly first.
"Eventually, I want to offer a small but fresh menu," she says. "Signature sandwiches and homemade soups. Late-night burgers. We'll always be a bar first, but someday, a bar that serves exceptional food."
Wisniewski, who grew up on 12th and Becher Streets and currently lives in Walker's Point, has been welcomed by the St. Francis neighborhood. The owners of the Rail's Inn Depot across the street have been particularly welcoming, sending over customers and even washing Redbar's towels just to help out.
But she also hopes Bay View and Walker's Point bar goers will recognize how close by Redbar is to the near South Side.
"We're really not far away. We're just around the corner from the places people are already hanging out," she says.
So far, the turn out has been good, and Wisniewski and bartender and friend Mark Fisher are pleased with the crowd.
"A lot of really good people have come in here so far," says Fisher.
For Wisniewski, owning a bar is a dream come true. She says she wanted to own a bar since she was in college at the University of Florida and over the years looked around at a lot of different spaces. It wasn't until a year-and-a-half ago that she and Schell, who have been together for nine years, started assertively building shopping.
"We really wanted to own the building, not lease a space," she says. "And when I saw this place, from the moment I walked in, I got the most amazing vibe."
Wisniewski, who has worked in corporate environments and runs her own consulting business, says opening the bar is the most challenging thing she has ever done. She describes herself as "all about people" and says, so far, she loves owning a bar.
"I want to always take shifts behind the bar. It's important to remember where you came from, to talk to people," she says. "At Redbar, everyone is equal and here for the same reason: to have fun. And so far, we're having a really good time."
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