The Riverwest Public House Cooperative (815 E. Locust St.) is currently open. But, barring a “small miracle,” the longtime cooperative venue/bar/gathering place will close at the end of September.
“We’d like not to,” says Michael Rebers of the Public House, “but nowadays in the age of COVID, especially with a place that has already been in trouble, now we can’t rely on being a venue. We did all the right things, we got SBA loans and did as much as we could do, but it’s just kind of not viable right now.”
Rebers tells Milwaukee Record that a virtual membership meeting was called last week, with Public House members “overwhelmingly” deciding to either liquidate or sell.
“We’re facing some definite fiscal issues that aren’t likely to be solved anytime soon,” Rebers says. “So the options are either liquidate all assets and attempt to pay off whatever we can pay off, or essentially sell the business.”
Rebers says selling would be the best option, and that membership has been working with some interested parties. Still, he says, “we’re on a timescale, and we may not be able to get that done. Hopefully, knock on wood, we can.”
Thus, the future of the Public House after the end of September remains to be seen. For now, however, it remains open.
“If we can, we’ll try to stay open until we absolutely can’t,” Rebers says. “But that’s exacerbating the obvious. It’s not a long-term viable solution, so we have to prepare for that.”
The Riverwest Public House opened in 2011. At the time, it was only the second cooperative public house in the United States. Over the past nine years, it has played host to countless shows, gallery events, progressive-minded meetings, and more.
A GoFundMe relief fund—created back in March—remains active.
“We’re looking for solutions,” Rebers says, “so if anybody has one, we’ll hear them out.”