Jeramey Jannene

Swigs Pub Will Become Clementines

92-year-old Bay View bar on S. Clement Ave. will find new life with lots of amusement machines.

By - Jul 6th, 2021 02:14 pm
Swigs Pub & Grill. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Swigs Pub & Grill. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Swigs Pub & Grill, 3143 S. Clement Ave., will become Clementines under a proposal from Robin Koutecky and Amanda Delsart.

The 92-year-old Bay View bar and attached two-bedroom apartment was listed for sale earlier this year for $260,000, a price cheaper than many houses are being sold for in the southside neighborhood.

“Opportunity knocking with this multi-use property in Bayview! Well established tavern with regular clientele and attached home at the back of property,” said the June listing.

“Two and a half weeks ago I was minding my own business and now I am buying a bar,” said Koutecky in an interview just after this article was first published. Koutecky said she and Delsart, both veteran bartenders, have considered opening their own place for a couple years and were intrigued when they saw the Swigs listing.

The plan isn’t to change everything. The oval-shaped bar with at least 20 stools will be maintained near the front of the space alongside the pool table. The kitchen and restrooms at the rear of the first floor will stay where they are.

“The bar is so sexy,” she said. “It has a beautiful layout.”

“We really just want to keep it like a tavern, but we want to do everything well,” said Koutecky. She said a special emphasis would be placed on having good service and making it accessible for the entire neighborhood.

The basement would continue to be used for storage, but Koutecky said they are considering the suggestion from the seller’s real estate agent that it could become an event hall or additional bar space in the future.

A pending license application with the city indicates the bar would be open at 6 a.m. every day but Sunday and close at 2 a.m. on weeknights and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.

A prospective food menu lists pastries, sandwiches and coffee available for breakfast and pizza, chicken strips, french fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms and cheese curds for lunch and dinner. Similar to Swigs, Koutecky and Delsart estimate that drinking, not food, is the focus. The partners estimate that food revenue will make up 10% or less of business revenue.

“We are trying to keep it simple,” she said. The long-time Bay View resident has seen the neighborhood’s fortune change, noting she got her start as a teenager working at Cafe Voltaire, a long-gone punk rock bar formerly owned by her mother.

Today Koutecky’s well-known for being a bartender at The Mad Planet, where she’s worked for the past 31 years. But that’s coming to an end this week. “They reopen this Friday and it’s my last day,” she said.

Delsart works at Y-Not II and Club Garibaldi.

Swigs was most recently owned by husband-and-wife team Christopher and Theresa Brown. The couple purchased the building in 2013 according to city property records, but it’s been home to Swigs for decades. Prior to becoming Swigs, it was known as Lud & Jerry’s and before that Lud & Angie’s. Tri-City National Bank successfully foreclosed on the property in September, securing a default judgment in its favor in March.

The license application indicates that the new partners each own 40% of the proposed business. City licensing requirements only require owners to be disclosed if they own 20% or more, indicating that there are multiple minority investors.

The license application says the property, including the bar business, was acquired for $260,000 by the partners’ Clementines Tavern LLC. Koutecky said the sale is scheduled to close on Friday.

The license will go before the Common Council’s Licenses Committee in the coming months, but the council’s August recess is likely to delay the opening until September or October.

Prohibition and Pinball

The building was constructed in 1929 according to city records and was a tavern even during prohibition according to newspaper records. “Saloon and boarding,” says a 1932 Milwaukee Sentinel listing.

No newspaper accounts of penalties for flouting the federal prohibition on alcohol sales were found. But the bar’s owner, Frank Burns, was subject to a landmark Wisconsin Supreme Court case in 1936 involving pinball.

Burns was issued a $20 fine in 1936 for being busted with a “gambling device” by the morals squad. His crime? Offering a beer to a police officer in exchange for a token won from the bar’s pinball machine. A Milwaukee jury acquitted him, but assistant city attorney and future mayor Carl Zeidler successfully appealed the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Burns did 10 days in jail in 1937 instead of paying the $278 in court costs.

While it’s unclear if the new owners will offer pinball, they did include a request to allow up to 12 “amusement machines” in their license request. The previous owners had nine.


Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us