In Bars & Clubs

DJ Sheldon Knight mans the music every Wednesday at Zen Den.

In Bars & Clubs

The glowing bar runs the entire length of the east wall of the lounge.

In Bars & Clubs

Knight keeps in mellow until 10 p.m. and then he "brings it."

Feeling the flow at the Wyndham's new Zen Den lounge

For a Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the Zen Den, the ultra posh lounge inside the newly renovated Wyndham Milwaukee Center Hotel, is packed. Actually, it's packed even for a Friday night. Many of the guests have wandered in after dining in the hotel's haute new restaurant, Kil@Wat, which is just a stroll through the massive hotel lobby.

The mood is warm, the atmosphere is stylish and resident DJ Sheldon Knight is
behind his turn tables doing his part to make sure everyone's feeling -- to use his word -- sexy.

"Sexy is the operative word. I don't know what the vibe's like in Milwaukee yet, but I do know that every venue has it's own thing, and it's my job to create it," he says. "What they're going for is exactly what a lot of big venues are doing right now -- establishing a symbiotic relationship between a fine dining restaurant and a lounge, that way they can both feed off each other and it works really well."

As a resident of Chicago and a DJ at NINE Restaurant and it's sister lounge, Ghost Bar, as well as having done time at the former mega club, Drink, Knight says that the Zen Den has an element of something he's used to seeing in the clubs in Chicago -- something sexy.

And he's right -- it is sexy. A step through the door greets you eyes with the soft orange glow of the swirling marble top bar, which runs the entire length of the east wall. Perfectly spaced tea light candles provide tiny dots of flickering light throughout the room and huge, cushy couches encircle small tables, creating several intimate areas for conversation.

The music's loud, but it's not anywhere near intrusive. It's like your pulse -- at times you hardly notice it, yet it's undoubtedly there, sustaining you.

It's still early, not even 10 p.m. and most of what Knight is playing is down-tempo house music.

"I never know what I'm going to play next -- I try to match my energy with their energy and create an exchange," he says. "We want to establish a certain standard. This room is not going to lend itself to Top 40 hip-hop. As far as the early crowd, they want to talk -- they don't want it too loud. If I really wanted to catch their ear, I'd drop in some Sinatra."

Zen Den has only been officially open since Nov. 13 and has a grand opening planned for Wednesday, Dec. 13. Bar manager Michelle Shannon says the evening will feature flights of all kinds -- martini, sake and bubbly -- all of which are available anytime Zen Den is open, Wednesday through Saturday. Shannon says the lounge also offers a bottle service for parties looking to take the whole bottle of booze with them back to their sitting area. And of course, the score to grand opening evening will be provided by Mr. Knight.

"Given the opportunity, I think we can develop our own thing here," he says. "I want it to be more than a hotel bar -- I want it to be an institution."


Talkbacks

Sci-Feih | Dec. 23, 2006 at 6:47 p.m. (report)

Good, you learned something then. If your out somewhere other then the Chancery, you should probuly review the wine list before ordering.

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elysse | Dec. 12, 2006 at 2:28 p.m. (report)

I was at a fundraiser at Zen Den last week, and I was charged $11 for one glass of wine! (I didn't specify a brand, I just asked for a cabernet.) I find that price absurdly high, I guess I'm one of those people who are the reason high-priced clubs aren't as popular in Milwaukee as in other cities. Also, the music was so loud we couldn't have a conversation without literally speaking into someone else's ear. I might give it another chance.

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