Sabbatic, a Neighborhood Bar with Punk Blood
The Walker’s Point’s spot also boasts some of the town’s longest happy hours.
Sabbatic tavern was born in December 2009 from the ashes of the old Union House tavern, at 700 S. Second St., which once served as a brothel. Sam Berman, managing partner for Sabbatic recalls the scene he encountered like it was yesterday: “It looked like the end of the world in here,” he notes. “Seriously, it looked like a scene out of the walking dead.”
The tavern’s new name came from the concept of taking a sabbatical (or in agricultural terms letting the land rest and rejuvenate), providing a rest spot with the same footprint as the old Union House, but cleaned up and “with a little more soul,” Berman says. “Sabbatic is where you can get away from your problems, take a deep breath, and have a beer over some Motown.”
Jay Stamates, the other managing partner at Sabbatic, sings a slightly different tune: his vision for the bar is a lot of comfort, but with a punk rock edge to it. The bar’s Facebook page (1,371 likes) offers an image of scary looking masks.
Speaking of DJs, Sabbatic has one every Friday and Saturday night. Paul H comes in every Saturday, and many Fridays. “He is spectacular” says Berman, “He is really good at reading a crowd.” And if you really want to unwind, once a month the DJ night is a “pants off dance off” for those brave enough to really let loose in front of a crowd. Sabbatic’s Facebook page says the last pants off dance off featured “all kinds of drunken debauchery.”
The atmosphere here isn’t fancy, more like a comfortable corner bar, with prices to match. Sabbatic is the land of the Happy Hour, which runs from 5pm to 9pm, Monday through Friday, and from 2pm to 8pm on Saturday, when taps, domestics, and rails are all half price. Says a yelp.com reviewer: “…happy hour on Saturday?! Super!” In addition, the bar offers a what you might call a Happy Quarter Hour within the Happy Hour: 99 cent off of almost everything, every day from 7 to 7:15 pm.
Bartender Matt Ryan says he has worked at a lot of bars, but nothing quite like Sabbatic. “We have a lot of fun here; everybody always has a good time.” The night we were there, Ryan seemed to know almost everyone who walked in the door, and when he didn’t, offered them a pleasant welcome. “All of our bartenders wave their own flag when they are here, and it represents who they are when they work,” says Berman.
It’s a mixed crowd. As one yelp.com reviewer noted, “A few couples in leather were there, it’s Walker’s Point, as well as older people that look like they took in a theatre show, and a bunch of us old hipsters. A nice mixed crowd!”
Berman seems to embrace that description. “There are a lot of incredible bars in Milwaukee,” he notes, “but here, we have a lot of different types of people that come together.” Or as one yelp reviewer puts it, “Think of a nicer punk-rock bar — solid background music selection, plenty of alcohol and beer, great staff.”
Readers of onmilwaukee.com chose Sabbatic as their second favorite bar in Walkers Point, after Steny’s.
As for the future, “we want to continue to grow and continue to establish this institution,” says Berman. Noting all the changes recently in Walker’s Point, he adds that, “even though we’ve only been around since 2009, we want to be that place where, when places are coming and going, we’re one of those bars that was always here, that everybody knows about.”
After all, Berman notes, “Sabbatic is its own, living, breathing entity.”