Michael Horne
Bar Exam

Drink Wisconsinbly Moves Downtown

How a brand name became a bar and moved to Bucks Entertainment Block.

By - Apr 8th, 2019 04:43 pm
Drink Wisconsinbly. Photo by Michael Horne.

Drink Wisconsinbly. Photo by Michael Horne.

According to the firm’s website, the “Drink Wisconsinbly” brand was “conceived of in a bar by a guy in Wisconsin in 2013.”  This “guy” was Richard Lorbach, the creative director of a Minneapolis novelty company which is owned by Wisconsin native Ryan T. Walther.

And soon Walther and his company included the brand in numerous items of apparel, barware, keychains and similar items. The firm’s products extolled the merits of Day Drinking, and of Wisconsin’s first rank among all other states in in the field of inebriation. (“Outdrinking Every State since 1848.”)

In 2015, Walther’s 30Watt company licensed the Drink Wisconsinbly brand to a group operating a tavern under that name at 135 E. National Ave. This ended acrimoniously in court, and the place, which opened on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016, closed its doors in December, 2018.

Meanwhile, Walther reorganized his company, spun off Drink Wisconsinbly to a separate entity, and raised $1.5 million to open a new 3,269-square-foot bar immediately across the plaza from the Fiserv Forum, occupying a small but significant portion of the new 20,649-square-foot building known as the Milwaukee Bucks Entertainment Block. It shares space with Good City Brewing and Punch Bowl Social in the $36.4 million structure owned by a group affiliated with the Milwaukee Bucks, the tenants of the Fiserv Forum. It will be joined this month by the MECCA Sports Bar and Grill.

Brand New Bar

“Drink Wisconsinbly” is brand new for this town, where hundreds of taverns went for decades with their brand to be found on no apparel, except for the uniforms of the softball teams and bowling leagues they sponsored. By contrast, the visitor to this new establishment will be able to return home with plenty of gear emblazoned with the slogan, available for sale at the front desk in a bewildering variety. No room in your suitcase, what with all of the cheese and sausage you’re packing for the trip back? Shipping is available, as is online ordering.

Perhaps the newest thing about Drink Wisconsinbly is that it presents the local visitor with the first look at a very new Milwaukee — not just in a building recently constructed, in a neighborhood that did not exist, except as a phantom — but of a new touristy Milwaukee. What once was an overlooked district is now a destination. That’s very new, and is going to take some getting used to.

The Tavern Today

Drink Wisconsinbly occupies the southwest corner of the glassy building, designed by RINKA. Its corner is cut out at a 45 degree angle, offering ringside views of the remnants of the Bradley Center, now being demolished. A glimpse to the south shows the north wall of Turner Hall, seen from a vantage point unimaginable no more than a year ago, except in the eye of the architect. A plaza opens to the tavern, and in clement weather visitors will be able to carry their beers outside, provided they are in 20-oz. plastic cups, which are already stacked by the exits.

“Beer Hunting Season is On,” a sign on the door indicates, and the visitor enters to find an open concept room with exposed mechanicals suspended from the ceiling, which is painted black. Red walls and red stools add some color to the place, which can be flooded with light in the late afternoon, sun permitting. There is a wall with over 1,000 beer cans — and one that is not a beer can. (See if you can find it!) There are television monitors, to be sure, suspended lights featuring Wisconsin postcard scenes c.1950. A cutout Wisconsin map, similar to those found at the borders of the state, welcomes us to the tavern, and includes a flipboard tallying the number of beers sold, which was running at the rate of about 1,000 a day for its first week in business. At $7 for a pint, that’s a good haul.

True to its brand, the tavern’s beers are exclusively brewed in Wisconsin. It also features “Fine Wisconsin Wine,” a relatively new category. The company has also partnered with a Wisconsin-based rectifier to offer its own brandy, created in California and finished here. The Old Fashioneds are served from a bubbler.

In many respects, Drink Wisconsinbly is a departure for Milwaukee. Not only is it a new tavern in a new building in a new district, it indicates a departure from how visitors and locals will see this area, once familiar and so old, and now so new.

Also of interest: Bar Exam “Drink Wisconsinbly is Very, Very Local” February 11th, 2016.

On Tap - Sponsored by Lakefront Brewery

  • City Lights Brewing Amber Ale
  • Karben4 Brewing Fantasy Factory
  • Lake Louie Brewing Warped Speed Scotch Ale
  • Lakefront Seasonal
  • Leinenkugel’s Leinie's Special Ale
  • Leinenkugel’s Northwoods Lager
  • New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow
  • Lakefront IPA

 The Verdict

  • Trade Name: Drink Wisconsinbly Pub
  • Location: 320 W. Highland Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53203
  • Neighborhood: Kilbourn Town
  • Subdivision: Certified Survey Map No.8994 [2019]
    Phone Number: (414) DRINKWI
  • Website: https://www.drinkwi.pub/
  • Facebook: @DrinkWiPub
  • Twitter: @DrinkWi
  • Description: Something new, that’s for sure. Building is part of the Milwaukee Bucks entertainment district, and will have a considerable appeal for game-day visitors, and those attracted for special events, such as the upcoming 2020 Democratic National Convention. Expansive views and an inviting plaza offer appeal. Wisconsin products are featured, as is a great view of the new sports complex and its neighborhood-in-the-making. Soon to be accessible via streetcar.
  • Capacity: Could not be determined
  • Year Established: Brand “conceived of in a bar by a guy in Wisconsin in 2013,” first offering apparel, drinkware and accessories. Opened its first licensed pub in 2016 in the Harbor District, closed that outpost December 2108 in anticipation of move to this new building in The Milwaukee Bucks Entertainment Block across from Fiserv Forum. Opened here on Thursday, March 28th, 2019
  • Year Building Constructed: 2018-19
  • Architect: RINKA
  • Building Owner: MKE BLK4L2LLC , C T CORPORATION SYSTEM, MADISON Registered Agent. Owner shares address with Milwaukee Bucks and related entities, including Head of Herd, LLC.
  • Estimated Annual Rent: According to Assessor’s calculations, the 3,269 sq. ft. tavern’s rent is $23.99 per square foot for a total annual rent of $78,423.31. According to new Class “B” Tavern license, Rent is $10,200 per month or $122,400 per annum
  • Property Assessment: The 19,601 sq. ft. parcel is assessed at $Unknown [$X.XX/s.f.] while the 30,649 sq. ft. structure is assessed at $Unknown for a total assessed valuation of $Unknown. Previous assessment: $Unknown. [Figures expected to become available during April reassessment, now underway.–Ed.]
  • Legal Entity: Wisconsinbly Holdings, LLC. John R. Casanova [D.O.B. 07/17/1967] Agent. Ryan T. Walther [D.O.B. 08-02-1974], 56% owner. Remaining 44% share scattered among other owners, none with 20% or more interest
  • Business: Tavern. 65% Alcohol sales, 10% Food, 25% Other (“Retail Merchandise”)
  • Walk Score: 92 out of 100, “Walker’s Paradise” Daily Errands Do Not Require A Car. City Average: 62 out of 100
  • Transit Score: 71 out of 100: “Excellent Transit.” Transit is Convenient for Most Trips. City Average: 49 out of 100. Streetcar extension underway
  • Aldermanic District: 4th. Robert Bauman
  • Police District: 1
  • Bike Racks: In the general vicinity

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One thought on “Bar Exam: Drink Wisconsinbly Moves Downtown”

  1. frank a schneiger says:

    As someone who grew up in Milwaukee and is now a frequent visitor, I am always struck by the “Drink Wisconsibly” sweatshirts on sale in the airport terminal stores. Having been scared shitless as a little kid by drunken relatives who almost got my brother and me killed driving back from a picnic, and having shined shoes for mean drunks in National Avenue bars and now wondering what life must have been like at home, and having watched bloody drunken brawls at the ballpark, and having talked to friends who grew up in drunken homes and thought it was normal until they realized it wasn’t, and having had smart and talented friends who screwed up their lives with alcohol, and having just read the headline, “Kenosha Authorities Identify Three Killed by Suspected Drunk Driver”….

    Having experienced all of these things, it is not clear to me exactly why anyone would think that “Drink Wisconsibly” is either clever or amusing, and that maybe we should think about the consequences of making something so socially destructive seem clever and amusing.

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