Since December 2014, the building at 701 E. Center St.—formerly Impala Lounge, and before that River Horse—has been empty. What was once a lively and quintessentially Riverwest-y Riverwest bar has been little more than an empty shell, accruing graffiti, waiting for signs of life. That’s set to change with the opening of High Dive, a new bar that plans on bringing the good times back to the corner of Center and Pierce, while at the same time rolling with the changes the neighborhood has seen over the past seven months.
High Dive will be helmed by longtime Bremen Cafe bartender Jason McBrady. A 20-year resident of Riverwest, McBrady says the opportunity to run his own bar “fell in [his] lap” after another business set for the space fell through. “I wasn’t planning on opening a bar,” McBrady says. “I guess as a bartender I’ve entertained the notion, though similar to buying a house, they’re always out of my price range.” But with some help from the Riverwest Neighborhood Association, Ald. Nik Kovac, and Centro Cafe owners Peg Karpfinger and Pat Moore (“I can’t thank them enough,” McBrady says of Karpfinger and Moore), McBrady suddenly found his vague dream a reality.
“I really want it to be more like early River Horse,” McBrady says. “I want it to be fun. Live music and DJs on the weekends.”
To that end, McBrady has secured a full band permit for the space. He plans on building out a small stage in the bar’s southwest corner, and foresees hosting bands throughout the week. “I’m from Bremen, and that’s the key to our success: music,” he says.
Other plans for High Dive include eight tap lines, beer from Company Brewing, a few craft drinks, and rotating art from local artists. A fresh coat of paint and new tables and stools are currently being installed.
But above all, McBrady envisions a bar that will fit in with the rapidly changing Riverwest neighborhood. “Things are different in the neighborhood. Company Brewing is a very nice establishment. Centro is a very nice establishment,” he says. “In the wintertime, I’m hoping for overflow from both of those establishments. I want it to be a nice place, a place where people feel welcome and would come to for a drink if they were waiting for a table at one of those places, or after their meal.”
McBrady hopes to have his liquor license squared away and High Dive’s doors open by this Friday, just in time for the Riverwest 24. If that doesn’t happen, he plans on opening the space anyway for 24-themed show with music from NO/NO, James Julius Anderson, Bo Triplex, and Christopher DeAngelo Gilbert.
As for High Dive’s name, McBrady stresses it’s not a nod to “dive” bars. “It just sounds good,” he says.