Owning a bar in Milwaukee would be pretty cool, right? Especially if the bar was cool in and of itself.
Guess what? It’s possible. The Riverwest Public House Cooperative makes dreams happen—if owning a bar so happens to be one of your dreams.
Located at 815 E. Locust St. in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, the Public House is a part of the Riverwest Co-op, a member-owned and volunteer-run grocery store and café. In 2010, the folks behind the Riverwest Co-op wanted to start another business that would be profitable and promote economic development in the community. The most lucrative idea ended up being a bar, and on St. Patrick’s Day of last year, the Riverwest Public House was opened.
“We want the bar to be acceptable to people. It’s the thinking man’s bar,” said Peter Murphy, events coordinator at the Public House.
Annual membership for the Public House is $40 a year or $200 for a lifetime membership. Perks include member-only drink discounts and legal ownership of the bar. No big deal.
Murphy and others on the board of directors take all members’ suggestions about the bar into consideration. It’s what helps build the community atmosphere the cooperative was made to create.
“We are always taking members’ ideas and trying to make them as possible as we can,” said Murphy.
The mission behind the Public House is quite different from your typical bar. The Public House wants to provide its patrons with not only local and organic beers, but also with an active community space perfect for speakers, live music and regular community events—sometimes as simple as a friendly card game.
“We’ve had politicians, spelling bees, and debates. We try to keep it diverse,” said Murphy.
In May alone, the Public House has a full schedule of events open to members and non-members, with most costing under $10 for admission.
On May 6, Rival FM, the monthly song writing and recording competition, will hold its second event at the Public House. Aspiring musicians submit their music, and audience members come to the listening party and vote on their favorites.
On May 26, the Public House will sponsor Milwaukee’s first Group Hug competition. The competition, inspired by the first Group Hug event in St. Louis, Mo., involves five major Rust Belt cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee. The idea is to bring people together through the love of their cities.
Participants simply find a favorite place, person or object that defines Milwaukee and then snap a picture while hugging it. The deadline to submit photos is May 15.
There’s always something happening at the Public House, and everyone behind it wants the city to know about it.
“Like our website says, we want to build community, one drink at a time,” said Murphy.