Michael Horne
Bar Exam

St. Paul’s Palapa Bar Open All Year

Great addition to Public Market, Fish Company's bar is at its best in summer weather.

By - Apr 22nd, 2019 02:11 pm
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St. Paul Fish Company Palapa Bar. Photo by Michael Horne.

St. Paul Fish Company Palapa Bar. Photo by Michael Horne.

In the summer of 2016 Bar Exam visited the St. Paul Fish Company to take a look at the outdoor bar that had been constructed at the northwest corner of N. Broadway and E. St. Paul Ave. (See: “Fish Market’s Outdoor Bar.”) After years of negotiations with the management of the Milwaukee Public Market, Patrick Nedobeck got permission to haul a couple of stools outside of the market, served by a modest bar. As a summertime hit, it was a natural. The bar gave animation to the street, and turned the market’s limited outdoor space into a revenue producing area.

The theme is “Palapa,” a term used to describe open structures with thatched palm roofs common in the hot climate of Mexico and the Caribbean. Such bars are common on beaches and at resorts, and are known for their simple, sociable nature. In summertime, the bar makes perfect sense, especially in contrast with the massive buildings of the Historic Third Ward and the freeway that looms overhead.

In January, 2017 Nedobeck and his brother-in-law Tim Collins, who with his wife Beth Collins owns the fish company, decided to generate sales and publicity by creating an ice bar in the otherwise tropical environment. It was a great hit, followed by reiterations in 2018 and this year. The success prompted the operators to significantly expand the bar area, which was done in 2018 at considerable expense, and just in time for Summerfest. Additional coolers and beer taps were added to the place, and the bar was doubled in length, executed in a substantial fashion, and seated on a wooden floor laid above the cold, hard cement. A transparent plastic shell enclosed the whole, while space heaters moderated the interior temperature to a pleasant numbness. Exotic drinks and good beer help to elevate temperatures and spirits. The music, selected by Nedobeck, is just what you want to hear in a party environment, while still encouraging socialization.

Nedobeck’s experiment with the ice bar led to additional ice bars adorning the corner this winter, including those of The Wicked Hop, which celebrated its 15th anniversary on April 18th, and the Cafe Benelux, which went one step further and also put heated domes up on its roof.

Always Busy

Business at the Milwaukee Public Market more than doubled between 2010 and 2017, and the seafood restaurant had a lot to do with the increase. Sales at the market were $5.8 million in 2008. By 2018, they had met a new milestone according to a press release from the market’s management:

Total vendor sales increased by 10 percent to $18.2 million, up from $16.5 million in 2017 and more than double the total sales at the Public Market in 2011 ($8.3 million). Total sales at the market were $5.2 million in 2008.

Customer visits were also up 10 percent in 2018 to 1.79 million, up from 1.63 million in 2017 and up from 1.17 million in 2012.

The Milwaukee Public Market’s gross sales per leasable square foot is now more than $1,400.

Although individual breakdowns of revenue from the market’s 17 tenants (including Benelux, which like the market, is owned by the City of Milwaukee Business Improvement District No.2) are not made public, it is safe to say that the St. Paul Fish Company represents somewhere between a quarter and a third of the total.

The busy-ness of the place is evident to the casual visitor, who is surrounded by hundreds of others at nearly any time. Many of these people are tourists, yet there is a substantial core of locals, some well-heeled, who live or work in the area. They certainly play here. The market has become one of the city’s premier tourist destinations, according to Visit Milwaukee, and this outdoor outpost plays a considerable role.

Are you brave enough to handle the late-April cold? The Palapa bar is open for you now and the plastic skin should keep you warm. It will come down once the weather gets hot enough, to create an open air bar. Offer your predicted date for when that will happen in the comments section and we’ll see whose guess is closet to the mark.

On Tap - Sponsored by Lakefront Brewery

  • Pacifico Mexican Lager
  • Schlitz
  • Lakefront IPA

The Verdict

  • Trade Name: St. Paul Fish Company Palapa / Ice Bar
  • Location: Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.
  • Neighborhood: Juneau Town
  • Subdivision: Plat of Milwaukee (c. 1846)
    Phone Number:  414-220-8383
  • Website: https://www.stpaulfish.com/palapa-ice-bar/
  • Facebook: @StPaulFish
  • Twitter: @stpaulfish.com (inactive)
  • Description: An outdoor adjunct to the adjacent and space-starved St. Paul Fish Company in the Milwaukee Public Market, it achieves the remarkable feat of year-round activity, even in the cold months of springtime. In winter, it is clad in ice (briefly). When the wrapping comes off, is an inviting introduction to the Historic Third Ward. The streetcar passes within feet as it heads to the station, and dramatically turns the corner here. Music is well curated and adds greatly to the environment.
  • Capacity: Could not be determined, but looks like you can squeeze about 30 folks in there
  • Year EstablishedFish Company, 2005. Palapa bar, 2016, with significant expansion 2018
  • Year Building Constructed: 2005
  • Architect: The Kubala Washatko Architects (TKWA)
  • Building Owner: City of Milwaukee Business Improvement District No.2
  • Estimated Annual Rent: Could not be readily determined
  • Property Assessment: The parcel, size of which could not be readily determined, is assessed at $698,800 [$X.XX/s.f.] while the structure, the size of which could not be readily determined, is assessed at $2,836,000 for a total assessed valuation of $3,534,000. 2008 Assessment: $1,655,700.
  • Legal Entity: St. Paul Seafood, LLC. Timothy G. Collins [D.O.B. 07-10-1961] Agent, 20% owner; Mary Beth Collins [D.O.B. 08-30-1964] 80% owner. Owners are husband and wife
  • Business: Restaurant. 10% Alcohol sales, 90% Food
  • Walk Score: 98 out of 100, “Walker’s Paradise” Daily Errands Do Not Require A Car. City Average: 62 out of 100
  • Transit Score: 69 out of 100: “Good Transit.” Many nearby public transportation options. City Average: 49 out of 100.
  • Bike Score: 87 out of 100 “Very Bikeable” Certainly very flat and with many interesting intersections.
  • Aldermanic District: 4th. Robert Bauman
  • Police District: 1
  • Bike Racks: Abundant, including some beneath the freeway. A Fixit station is ten feet north of the bar, in full sight

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