Sophie Bolich

Wisconsin’s First Listening Lounge Planned for Bay View

A vinyl-focused lounge, bar and event space coming to former Lee's Luxury Lounge.

By - Aug 22nd, 2023 09:49 am
Former site of Lee's Luxury Lounge, 2988 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo taken Aug. 21, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Former site of Lee’s Luxury Lounge, 2988 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo taken Aug. 21, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

A new concept from The Vanguard owners Jim McCann and Chris Schulist will trade sausages for sound systems. The pair, along with partners Holly Doar, John Dykstra and John Kuester, plan to open a new, vinyl-focused listening lounge, bar and event space in the former Lee’s Luxury Lounge, 2988 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

The previous tavern, famously blessed by Lakefront Brewery co-founder Jim Klisch, closed in May after a 20-year run.

The as-yet-unnamed business will include a bar and event space to complement the listening lounge — offering a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere where vinyl enthusiasts can enjoy food, drinks and community with fellow music lovers.

“The idea is to be able to give our guests the opportunity to enjoy many different styles of music in a comfortable, welcoming environment,” McCann said in a statement.

Listening lounges, which originated in Japan, have since been adopted by entrepreneurs throughout larger US cities. The upcoming concept, featuring collections from local and national vinyl record enthusiasts, will be the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

Investing partners Dykstra and Kuester will no doubt contribute valuable insight, thanks to their musical and sound-savvy backgrounds — Dykstra as a designer for GIK Acoustics and Kuester of Kid Millions Record Sales, who also co-owns Dope Folks Records with Schulist.

The building itself, now under the ownership of McCann, Schulist and their partners, will receive minor renovations while preserving its “mid-century neighborhood bar vibe,” according to a news release. The listening lounge will feature an audio system designed by Dykstra.

“Having an audio system in place so our patrons can enjoy the music at a reasonable level while still being able to hear the nuances in the music clearly, was very important to us,” Schulist said in a statement.

In addition to the listening lounge, future guests can expect an event space and bar program with draft cocktails, beer, wine and a wide selection of non-alcoholic beverages. A limited menu is also in the works, though McCann said it’s unlikely the bar will have a fully-operating kitchen. “We do plan on having some food options,” he said. “We have been working on some ideas that we think are going to be really fun.”

The upcoming concept will be McCann and Schulist’s second project in the Bay View neighborhood — the partners opened The Vanguard at 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in 2014.

The owners said that being an asset to the neighborhood is important to them and the success of the new venture. That’s just one reason they wanted to partner with Doar, who runs Blackbird Bar across the street. “Blackbird is one of our favorite bars in the city and Holly has been community-focused since they opened,” Schulist said. “Ultimately, we want our neighbors to view us as something that is adding to the uniqueness of Bay View.”

McCann and Schulist plan to announce a new hospitality group that will unite Vanguard and the new venture under a common entity. At this time, an opening date has not yet been announced for the new concept, but the owners said they are hoping to launch in December.

State real estate transfer records indicate the new owners paid $675,000 for the property.

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