In 2011 the Riverwest Public House opened its doors as “the Midwest’s only cooperative bar.” Also “the only cooperative bar outside of Texas,” “this side of the Mississippi,” “north of the Mason Dixon line”…There’s plenty of ways to say it. The important thing is that we’re a bar and we’re a cooperative.
Our opening day was St. Patrick’s day – March 17. We were happy to open our doors after months of planning, fundraising, and renovating the shabby interior of the former Saylece’s (and Riverwest Commons, and Golden Nugget). The building we currently occupy is adjacent to Garden Park where 2 food co-ops (Outpost and Gordon Park Food Co-op) once operated there in the Pulaski Building. Our block is rich in co-op history.
From the start, we have been focused on the long-term goal of using our excess revenue to create new co-ops. This is an ongoing project that involves incorporating a new umbrella organization to provide grants, loans, research, and professional services to would-be groups of cooperative entrepreneurs. As we gear up to make that organization a reality, we’re biding our time by making a consistent effort to invest in our neighbors and the Riverwest community. Some of the contributions we’ve made include but are not limited to:
- Holton Youth + Family Center
- Riverwest 24
- Build Milwaukee
- Hunger Task Force
- Garden Park Farmer’s Market
- River Revitalization Foundation
- Woodland Pattern
We host meetings of several organizations and book clubs and as you know, host plenty of local and touring musicians. We are also home to political debates, puppet shows, spelling bees, trivia, film screenings, and potlucks.
We have been featured in local and national press including Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Riverwest Currents, OnMilwaukee, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shepherd Express, BizTimes, and more. Our membership has climbed to around 500 in the past year and our sales numbers are steadily improving.
As we move into 2012, we highly encourage you to do a little research on the cooperative model. It’s the United Nations International Year of the Co-op and as a member-owner (or potential member-owner…do it! it’s only $40/year), you hold a stake in this interesting and important business structure. See our recent post on new cooperative legislation.
In the new year you can expect to see further improvements to the interior of the bar, continued emphasis on local and organic products, continued collaboration with local organizations, 100 lifetime member stein mugs, topical and relevant political debates, and educational programing.
We appreciate your business and your membership and we’re proud to begin another year as YOUR Riverwest Public House.