Back in April, we featured 42 Ale House on our list of “16 quintessentially Milwaukee patios,” despite the fact the nerd bar is technically located about a mile from Milwaukee’s border in St. Francis. While that detail isn’t significant when it comes to compiling arbitrary patio lists, it actually plays a major role in how and when the Ale House patio can be used. True to the Milwaukee suburb’s pious name, St. Francis is far more rigid and uptight than its neighbor to the north in regard to noise. The 9,000-resident city allows 42 (and the rest of the limited bars within its border) only three days of amplified outdoor music each year, which has been problematic for the young establishment that’s entering its second summer in business. But 42 Ale House’s owners think they found a way around the law.
If all goes right Saturday night, as many as 100 people will be dancing in the bar’s patio as two DJs vie for their attention with competing EDM, techno, and deep house mixes, and nobody outside Ale House’s walls will hear a thing. Headphone Disco started as a fun and unique event, but following recent restrictions imposed upon Ale House and having a permit to allow a band to perform last weekend’s Made In Nerdwaukee event denied by the city of St. Francis, it has also become something of a silent protest.
“It’s kind of fun in a way to not only do the event, but to fight the man,” co-owner Anthony Nilles says. “We’re not allowed to be loud outside, so we’re going to put these headphones on and have a cool party anyway.”
Headphone Disco will offer up to 105 patrons the ability to alternate between two DJs—Tony-Wan Kenobi and DJ Tiny Bubbles—who will simultaneously be pumping music into headphones the bar rented for the occasion. Lights on the headphones will indicate which DJ people are listening to, which will instill a dose of friendly competition between the DJs. Through all the music and intensity between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., nobody in the nearby condos nor any city officials will hear so much as a peep coming from the Ale House patio.
“It’s not like we’re trying to go to war with the city, but at the same time, there’s always something kind of fun about finding that loophole,” Anthony Nilles says. “We’re a video game-themed bar, and this is kind of like throwing on that Game Genie back in the days of NES. If I put in this secret code, all of a sudden I’m invincible.”
Assuming Saturday’s event goes off without a hitch, Nilles (aka Tony-Wan Kenobi) says “you bet your ass [they’re] going to do another one” as well as occasional acoustic patio concerts, which he’s confident is in compliance with St. Francis’ ordinance that prohibits amplified music more than three times annually.
“I used to be the kind of person who would lay down and give up if somebody told me no,” co-owner Lynn Nilles says. “Now, it’s like if you tell me no, I’m going to find a freaking way around it. No does not mean no, it means let’s find another path to making this happen.”
If you like dancing to club, house, and EDM or just like sticking it to the man, you know where to go Saturday night.