In Bars & Clubs

The Lewands aim to create a place that welcomes everyone.

In Bars & Clubs

Milwaukee may be segregated, but The Stage isn't.

In Bars & Clubs

The Stage is becoming a hot spot on the Northwest Side.

Lewands set The Stage for a bar that unites neighbors

A popular slogan of the progressive community is "Think Globally, Act Locally." In seeking to rebuild the image of a neighborhood and offer a safe, good time for locals, Laura and Mike Lewand, owners of The Stage, a new Northwest side bar at 7200 W. Fond du Lac Ave., are ready to amend the second part of the phrase to "Drink Locally."

"This side of town is lacking something fun and exciting for people 30 and over," observed Laura, 35, after opening The Stage with husband Mike in January of this year.

"We wanted to open a place that would offer that. We created a place where we would go. There are many good-hearted people in our area who want to go out and socialize and not worry about trouble. They now have a place to go."

During the early '80s, The Stage was the hair band haven T. A. Verns. The location had been closed for two years, but in six months since opening, the Lewands have built up The Stage from three customers the first night to a robust nightly crowd of loyal regulars, and a thriving weekend business.

The Lewands view the property as a good investment -- both for themselves and for the community. It took a year to convince city administrators of such, and to then grant the Lewands the proper licenses to open. Now, with six months of trouble-free operation, the Lewands expect to be granted expanded live music licenses for more entertainment on weekends.

The Stage has that classic good-time Milwaukee bar feel for adult working folk. You can mingle at the bar; peruse the eclectic selections in the jukebox; play video card games or trivia; watch sports on the many televisions; or shoot pool or throw darts. The Stage's vibe is relaxed and friendly. In today's racially tense Milwaukee, it is a welcome sight to see people of all colors unwinding and partying together.

"I'm Puerto Rican and I come here regularly," explained Milwaukeean Alicia Hernandez, 35. "It's wonderful to see people from all walks of life coming in and having fun. People have smiles on their faces all the time."

The Lewands have an ambitious plan to implement an engaging list of activities every night of the week at The Stage. The first night they tackled was Wednesday night, which became "Open Canvas Night."

At the weekly Wednesday Open Canvas, The Stage provides easels, canvases, papers, paints, pens and other art supplies. The art begins at 8 p.m. The catch is artists must finish the work that night. It then goes on the wall for sale, where the house and the artist split the sale price. There are drink specials and if the creative process becomes too stressful, relief can be found from a trained masseuse standing ready with a massage chair.

Laura is an artist and the Open Canvas Night helps her pursue her muse.

"When we bought the bar I realized I had no time to paint anymore. I wanted to have one night where I could paint."

House artist Tim Gerdman, who specializes in capturing the feminine mystique, and a weekly featured artist guarantee that multiple paintings are completed each Wednesday under the imposed deadline.

"We hope artists from all over the city come here and take advantage of this," Laura noted. It is a great way to meet other artists and to challenge yourself to work under a deadline." She lamented that there are no art galleries on the Northwest side and would like to open one someday. For now, Open Canvas Night fills the absence.

Word of mouth has helped spread the news of Open Canvas Night. "I heard about the open canvas from friends," explained pacifist poet and new painter Phil Stamos, 27, a recent transplant to the area from Binghamton, N.Y. "This is the ultimate in 21st century urban expression. There is no snobby vibe. I dig it mucho!"

On Saturday, June 24, 2006, The Stage celebrates six months of its Wednesday night Open Canvas with an art auction of the finest pieces painted the previous half year. The art auction is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and then four bands will perform to continue the celebration. Headliner Bellevue Suite will be joined by DWB, The Cherry Pops and Dynasty.

Open Canvas then takes a brief hiatus to avoid competing with Summerfest and other summer events. It will begin again on Wednesday, July 26, with the next art auction celebration slated for Saturday, Dec. 23.

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Talkbacks

OMCreader | Oct. 25, 2006 at 10:09 p.m. (report)

Doug said: I had the best time of my life. Check it out.

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OMCreader | July 13, 2006 at 8:25 p.m. (report)

Patty said: The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough, give your best anyway. Basically, keep your head up and keep on keep'n on! You are doing a fabulous job!

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OMCreader | July 11, 2006 at 10:56 p.m. (report)

Bucknaked said: Make sure when your there you by a drink for the Sniper

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OMCreader | July 10, 2006 at 11:01 p.m. (report)

FUMKE said: Eww dang! Stick! You go girl!

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OMCreader | July 9, 2006 at 12:29 p.m. (report)

Tiffany said: HATERS KEEP OUT!! Although Laura and Mike have much more class than to post this on the door I don't have a problem saying it. FUMKE, if that's how you feel about The Stage, here's some advice - don't come!! The Stage is a great place to relax, especially for those of us who work hard regardless of age. I think everyone has a right to their opinions but why hate on something positive. Mike & Laura work hard to make The Stage somewhere everyone feels comfortable. It's just a shame that FUMKE probably came to make trouble or probably to act as if they were at an under age house party, if that's the case, then you're right, The Stage isn't for you. The Stage caters to a diverse and responsible crowd. NOT a crowd that would include someone who posted such nasty comments! Best of Luck Mike and Laura, brush them haters off. And to anyone who hasn't checked it out, form your own opinion and stop in for a good time.

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