Rogues Gallery steals a slice of the Water Street scene
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Rogues Gallery, 134 E. Juneau Ave., is two floors of drinking space and art that will soon house three bars – once the patio bar is ready. Rogues opened Dec. 28, 2011 after two months of preparation and design.
"Rogues is a little bit everything. And the stuff I'm into, like the raw brick and metal decor. We cater to everybody, having DJs who spin everything, but the music mostly tends to be classic rock and classic hip-hop. And we have to play that LMFAO song, of course," says owner Nate Showers.
Rogues was built around the lights hanging over the bar, which Showers says he ordered online from "a kid in Iowa" who works out of his home. Showers and a friend hung the lights from a heavy-duty pipe that he now says was a bit of overkill.
"Just too much fun with a plasma torch," he says.
The bar is a rich, dark wood lined with chairs by Flux Design, 811 E. Vienna Ave. The wood floor and accents around the exposed brick still smell pleasantly of varnish.
"Everybody keeps telling me that. It must be the wood cleaning products I use," says Showers.
The concept for Rogues Gallery came from one of Showers' 10 notebooks that he filled with bar ideas and possible names over the years.
"With Rogues, I envisioned a crew of the 'usual suspects,' my people drinking at the bar when I come in," says Showers.
The gallery part grew out of a combination of Showers' appreciation and the space itself, which seemed naturally suited. Showers had been involved in monthly art shows at Jackalope Lounj, 345 N. Broadway St., and had always liked art.
"I have some pieces in here now that were done just with spray paint and some stencils. It blows my mind that people can be that creative," says Showers.
Showers grew up in Madison and went to UW-Whitewater for two years, where he started tending bar and kept doing so for five years, until his move to Milwaukee.
"I went that path instead of the school path," says Showers, who went on to work five more years at many Milwaukee bars.
Among the 15 or so establishments on Showers' resume are Wicked Hop / Jackalope Lounj, Vitucci's, Apartment 720, Kenadee's Ultrapub, Decibel, Monkey Bar, Star Bar, MOCT and Spin, where he launched "sin night."
"Then I figured it was time to start making money for myself," he says.
Showers also worked at Fat Abbey for awhile, which was once in the Rogues' space.
"I handled the 'Beats and Brunch' party, tending bar on the patio while Kid Cut Up handled the chill summer tunes. Fat Abbey had a pretty good brunch."
Showers has sold off most of the kitchen equipment that came with the space. He doesn't plan to have food, but if he ever does, it will likely just be "simple bar food."
Before Rogues and after Fat Abbey, McCarthy's was in the Juneau Avenue building. It closed the day before last Thanksgiving, after Showers convinced the owner to sell to him. Showers had been looking for a space for years and eventually wore down the McCarthy's owner, who wasn't actually looking to sell, with his requests.
Business is double what Showers expected, even with the bridge closing half a block down.
"One person told me eight more months on the bridge, somebody else told me it will be done mid-summer. Either way, it was already closed when I started, so who knows what its impact is," says Showers.
Rogues Gallery has Tripel Karmeliet, Spotted Cow, Fat Tire, Strongbow, Stella Artois, Guinness, Bell's Two-Hearted, Newcastle Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada, Miller Lite and Riverwest Stein on tap.
Monday nights is Bangarang at Rogues Gallery, a service industry party formerly housed at Jackalope, hosted by DJ E.Rich and another local guest DJ and when everything is half off. The first Saturday of each month Rogues hosts DJ Why B's alter ego "Rick Jameson Experience," when a live artist shares the stage with "Rick Jameson," two local DJs and one from Chicago.
The next Rick Jameson Experience is Saturday, March 3 with artist Dwellephant.
Showers, who says he's usually sitting at a bar if he's not in his own, is also big into Harley's and classic cars and spends the summer cruising in his 1950 Chevy, on a 2010 Road King Custom or his Springer Softail Classic.
But usually he's at his bar.
The art currently on display at Rogues is by Fred Kaems, Dwellephant and Czr Prz (solo and one collaboration with Revise). Their art will be up until the end of February, when three Chicago artists' work will be displayed. The current plan is for the art to be changed monthly.
After that, recently profiled local bartender and artist Kayla Koeune will have her work up in Rogues Gallery.
Rogues Gallery is currently open from 9 p.m. to bar time on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday.
Rogues hours are limited until the patio season, which Showers expects will come – or he'll make happen – in April. Showers says the patio will be open for St. Patrick's Day, but full bar service won't happen until the following month.
"When summer hits, we'll be here seven days a week, probably opening at noon Saturday and Sunday and 5 p.m. weekdays," he says.
Congrats Nate! You did what no one else did for that location. You blew it up and made it your own. "We're not on Water St any more Toto."
It will always be The Lodge to me. Loved $8 pitcher and pizza on Thursday nights.
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