Taverns

O’Lydia’s Keeps It Irish

The successor to Slim McGinn’s offers a feminine twist on the Irish pub.

By - Jul 21st, 2013 09:07 pm
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O'Lydia's. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

O’Lydia’s. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

The bar now known as O’Lydia’s, at 338 S. 1st Street, has had many an owner. From 1995 to 2011, it was known as Slim McGinn’s. Before that, it was Smugglers, owned by Johnny Vassallo, preceded by End of The Line and going all the way back to the late 1800’s when it was a Pabst Bar.

The wood bar with the Milwaukee plaque and tin ceiling minus the green paint, are still original. With a touch of femininity and a new menu, its current owner Linda Sackett has kept it going as an Irish bar, continuing the tradition started when it was Slim McGinn’s.

Why? Because “it worked,” she says. “It was such an easy transition.”

Sackett had known the previous owner Richard (Slim) McGinn for 20 years and was well acquainted with the establishment. All she really had to do was add a woman’s touch to the décor, a new name and update some furniture and a few fixtures.

Despite the continuity, for the first six months business was slow because people don’t really like change, Sackett notes. But now even on Wednesday nights, typically a slower night for bars because of the workweek, she’s packed.

“My passion is being in the hospitality business,” says Sackett. “When you buy a place, your heart and soul goes into it.”

In February 2011, she took over and left it as Slim’s for two months before rechristening it as O’Lydia’s. Lydia is her nickname bestowed by her boyfriend of 16 years—who, ironically, she met at Slim’s—and to keep with the Irish theme of Slim’s, she made it O’Lydia’s.

Sackett has been in the food and beverage business most of her life. The only time she wasn’t was her last job from 2004-2011, where she was a pit boss at Potawatomi in order to raise her two sons after her husband David died.

Mixture of the month poster. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

Mixture of the month poster. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

While at Potawatomi, she learned several valuable lessons. No. 1 was that this kind of job was not for her; No. 2, she wanted to invest in herself and start her own place; and No. 3, that customers are invaluable. “Customers go to Potawatomi because there is no other casino around,” says Sackett. “I want my customers to come here because they want to come here.”

O’Lydia’s is something of a family affair. Her son Rick Sackett is the general manager, her sister Marcia is the lead server and her nephew washes dishes. Sackett wanted people she could trust that are equally invested in the place, which allows her to be completely “hands on and involved,” she says. She is in the bar almost every day, and her son relieves her at night. The Sacketts have gotten to know many of the regulars well.

“From the time we open until bar time, we are able to see everything from a business meeting to a bachelor party to a few regulars shaking dice,” says Rick. “I run into a lot of friendly faces who are looking for a watering hole. I love being able to give them a place to hang out and have a cocktail or two.”

The Walker’s Point area has been very kind to Linda and Rick. A lot of the local businesses will send customers their way, Linda says: “They’re so supportive and want everyone to be successful. This area is really unique.”

Indoor patio bar. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

Indoor patio bar. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

O’Lydia’s gets a lot of young professionals (25 to 35-year-olds) coming in at night. Bartender Myssi Mills, who started in June 2012, loves the crowd. “It is a tight-knit community and makes coming to work enjoyable.” Many of the regulars have become her close and personal friends.

The Milwaukee Pedal Tavern, owned by Derek Collins and Ryan Lloyd, has also also been great for business, says Linda. It starts and ends at O’Lydia’s and has introduced the city to her venue.

Another notable change that has affected business for the better is the menu of “above average ‘bar food,’” as Rick puts it. Though the Reuben Rolls (Slim’s recipe) are still one of the most popular items, the menu has had a facelift and continues to evolve.

In August, a new menu will roll out and will most likely include the “Hogger”—to promote the 110th anniversary of Harley Davidson.

It’s a half-pound pork burger topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, jalapeno peppers and raw onions. Linda’s prediction: “It’s going to be huge.”

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