Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:38 pm
The Rumpus Room in downtown Milwaukee is usually abuzz with a full-capacity crowd on nights when there’s a show at the Marcus Performing Arts Center across the street, especially when it’s a Broadway show.
That was certainly the case Tuesday evening before the opening night of Broadway’s acclaimed musical “Hamilton,” which runs Oct. 22 through Nov. 17.
“This is the probably the biggest show that Milwaukee has ever seen, so even though it runs for a month, we do expect it to sell out every night which means we’re going to sell out every night,” said David Armstrong, the Bartolotta-owned eatery’s general manager.
In an effort to take full advantage of those sell-out crowds, the restaurant is hosting a colonial-themed dinner before each “Hamilton” performance in its 50-seat private event room.
The space has been transformed into an eighteenth-century-Williamsburg-style tavern, with patriotic red, white and blue decor, candles and fife and drum ballads. Each dinner begins with a brief reading of key parts of the Declaration of Independence.
The three-course meal, priced at $55 per person, includes Boston Lettuce Salet, Tavern Ale-Braised Short Ribs of Beef, and a Colonial Apple Crumble Tart. And diners can enjoy a variety of themed-beverages such as Sam Adams beer, The Federalist Wines, Jefferson Bourbon, Hot Mulled Apple Cider, and two specialty cocktails, “The Betsy Ross” and “Red White & Blue.”
The themed event is the first of its kind for The Rumpus Room, Armstrong said. And its first night was a success, selling out with just over 40 seats.
Using the private event space to meet a surge of diner demand ultimately allows the restaurant to bring in up to 50 more diners than it would on a typical show night, when its 150-seat dining and bar area is full and walk-in groups are often turned away, Armstrong said.
Rumpus Room’s themed dinners and dining room are quickly filling up, he said, but reservations can still be made through the restaurant’s website.
Across town on Milwaukee’s near west side, The Fitz restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel is also offering a Hamilton-inspired dining experience before each Thursday night performance. The $30 per person three-course meal includes venison and Alexander Hamilton’s favorite dessert, Toffee Apple Cake with vanilla ice cream, according to a press release.
Plus, the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service will transport diners to the Marcus Center after their meal.
Capitalizing on opportunities like an extended Hamilton run is necessary for downtown businesses that depend heavily on foot traffic generated by shows at the Marcus Center, concerts at Fiserv Forum and other events at nearby performance venues.
“Downtown doesn’t tend to be a meeting and hangout destination like some of the other neighborhoods in Milwaukee are, so having events in the downtown area that really bring in a crowd is significant for downtown business,” Armstrong said.
But attracting more phenomenon-level shows like “Hamilton” could be key to increasing and broadening downtown foot traffic long-term, said Heidi Lofy vice president of experience and engagement at the Marcus Center.
“It opens their eyes to other possibilities of things they can do downtown,” she said. “It makes it less of an unknown when people come down for a show like this. They see that it’s an easy-to-maneuver city and that parking isn’t as big a challenge as we all perceive it’s going to be when you’re going into an unknown location.”
She said the Marcus Center’s four venues present more than 800 performances and generate an estimated economic impact of $50 million annually.
That impact will continue to grow as Milwaukee gains industry credibility, Lofty said.
“Having a great financial run in any city makes it easier for (entertainment companies) to make a choice the next time around, so clearly the more Milwaukee supports this kind of performance, the more likely we are to get the next big show,” she said.
The Marcus Center expects to sell out all 32 shows of the four-week run.
Lofty said a limited amount of tickets are still available for shows later in the run. Tickets start at $80 and can range as high as almost $500 for upcoming weekend performances, according to Ticketmaster’s website.