Last summer, we broke the exciting news that Vanguard owners/operators Chris Schulist and Jim McCann—along with partners with connections to Blackbird Bar and Dope Folks Records—would be bringing a “listening lounge” to the former site of Lee’s Luxury Lounge in Bay View. Well, after months of preparation and renovations, that bar finally has an opening date.

Following last night’s “friends and family” soft opening, Wiggle Room (2988 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) will officially open to the public on Saturday, June 8. Milwaukee Record was fortunate to be able to get an early look at the place and learn more about what people can expect to see (and hear) at this new-to-Milwaukee bar concept.

Wiggle Room has more than 5,000 different records on-site. The selection ranges from LPs to 45s and singles to CDs. Everything played there will be in analog format. The staggering collection was sourced from the personal collections of owners, thrift shop hauls, titles Schulist inherited from his uncle Gene, and albums either given to them by or purchased from record labels.

“There’s a good representation of a lot of stuff here,” Schulist says.

Stylistically, the selection of records—which can be played by bartenders on a turntable set up behind the bar or by a DJ dropping needles at a massive custom-built booth that stretches across much of the business’ western wall—run the gamut. The numerous shelves are stocked with classic rock, R&B, old school hip-hop, disco, indie, garage rock, punk, jazz, among other genres.

Beyond being a place where owners and staff will work the turntables, Wiggle Room plans to eventually host touring bands and other friends with music connections for guest DJ sets.

“I think every night we’ll have an official DJ, but what happens before and after will be kind of flexible with different events we want to program,” McCann says.

Schulist says he has “so many ideas” for theme nights, including honky tonk happy hour sets, nights where he and his Dope Folks label partner John Kuester play rare golden era hip-hop, and recurring “library music” sets where he’ll play selections from his collection of vintage music that was used in ’70s TV and film productions.

The new bar tried to honor its predecessor by not making too many drastic changes. The bar itself is still there, as are the coolers, and the classic wood-paneled walls.

“Anything that we could keep, we tried to keep,” McCann says. “It was important to us to try to keep the legacy of this place and try to keep everything that’s old intact.”

That being said, a few walls were removed to improve the bar’s flow, new shelving was installed, and some coats of paint were applied. Oh, the buffalo mural, the genie, the Skee-Ball machines, and pool tables are not in the building anymore.

“Those things were not offered to us and, with all due respect, are not things we would’ve wanted,” McCann says. “It’s either biting Lee’s style or—with pool and Skee-Ball—they don’t play to a listening room.”

In place of those things, there’s antique lounge furniture, ample seating, a couple of arcade machines, the aforementioned (and absolutely incredible) isolated DJ booth, and enough space to serve as a dance floor when the mood strikes.

While the “record-centric corner bar” strives to be wide-ranging and inclusive with what it plays, they’ve put a great deal of attention into its sound system and acoustics. With the expertise and guidance of co-owner John Dykstra (who works in acoustic room design for his day job), Wiggle Room has struck what Dykstra refers to as “a balance of durability and quality” by adding sound treatments, paneling, and even separate volume controls for three sections of the business’ interior.

“It’s really about making sure everything can be heard clearly and people can still have a conversation,” Dykstra says.

Behind the bar, Wiggle Room his 10 draft lines (four dedicated to draft beer and six to batched cocktails), a variety of canned and bottled beer, a range of spirits—including a focus on Japanese whisky as a nod to the Japanese origin of listening rooms—and an abundant selection of non-alcoholic options.

“We think it’s very important that we have a pretty substantial N/A program as well,” McCann says. “I think you’re probably going to find more options here than any other bar.”

Wiggle Room’s grand opening will be Saturday, June 8 from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. After that, they’ll be closed Sunday, Monday, and possibly Tuesday to make any necessary adjustments with the hope of opening for regular service (4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily) beginning late next week. Check Wiggle Room‘s Instagram for updates.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.