Sophie Bolich

New Night Club Now Open on Water Street

Bodega replaces District on Water.

By - Jul 28th, 2022 03:19 pm

Bodega Nightclub & Lounge. Photo taken July 22, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

A new Latin nightclub is now open in the East Town neighborhood.

Bodega Nightclub & Lounge, 628 N. Water St., had its soft opening May 14 and is now fully operating. The club previously operated under the name District on Water.

Principally a dance club, Bodega features local DJs and hosts theme nights like “Noche en Miami” and “Como Antes: Throwback Reggaeton Party.” Cocktails, food and hookah are available in the  4,500-square-foot space, which includes a bar, dining area, dance floor and DJ platform.

Bodega is a Spanish word that can mean either warehouse or wine cellar depending on context, but has become a popular term used to describe a small convenience store in an urban area, especially one located in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood.

In September 2021, brothers Sal and David Safina applied for a license with the declared intent to purchase and rebrand the business. At their request, the council did not review the application, which was scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 25, 2022.

Instead, the license was renewed under the current owner, Patsy Smith-James. In an interview, Smith-James indicated that she had reopened the same business under a different name, stating that District and Bodega are one and the same.

A current liquor license lists Smith-James as the sole owner of the club, though she stated in an interview that the Safina brothers are partners in the business, handling social media and publicity. She declined to state what percentage of the business the Safina brothers hold. By law, business owners are required to disclose ownership percentages on the license application.

The Safina brothers have operated a long list of Milwaukee businesses, including the now-closed Giovanni’s, Comedy Cafe, Tutto and Notte. Currently, they run The Sofie, at 777 N. Jefferson St. and plan to open a new restaurant, Safina’s, next door.

Previously home to JC’s Pub and GrillEdgar’s CalypsoSwankUltra Lounge and Club Bari, the Bodega space has changed hands every few years for over a decade.

When it was operating as District on Water, the club was the site of a non-fatal shooting in 2018. The victim, a teenager, was struck inside the club, raising questions about security measures as well as the admittance of an underage person. The club received a 10-day suspension from the Common Council.

Digital agency McDill is located above the club in the four-story building. City assessments records note that the building is owned by E.L.K. VI LLC, which lists Cushman & Wakefield | Boerke‘s managing principal Kevin Riordan as its registered agent.

Bodega is open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and occasionally on Sundays for special events.

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