New event venue planned at former SURG on the Water space in Milwaukee’s Third Ward

The Starling will open in the former SURG on the Water at 102 N. Water St.

Last updated on November 18th, 2021 at 03:01 pm

The owners of entertainment company Milwaukee Airwaves are expanding their business with another event venue, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

The venue, dubbed The Starling, is slated to open in April at 102 N. Water St., along the Milwaukee River. The 8,505-square-foot space previously housed SURG on the Water, which permanently closed last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, it was Ryan Braun’s Italian restaurant Graffito.

Under the entity Five Birds LLC, Ramsey Renno and Tyler Curran signed a lease for the Water Street location earlier this month. It’s the third event venue for the Ramsey and Curran, who also¬†own The Ivy House and Filament MKE, both in Walker’s Point. They launched Milwaukee Airwaves in 2010 to provide sound, lighting and DJ entertainment for private events.

The duo’s newest concept has been in the works for months. Coming back from the challenges of the pandemic, they had been looking to grow, specifically into the Third Ward. The prime riverfront location was one they just couldn’t pass up, said Curran.

“We wanted to continue to the upward trajectory and find some cool spaces in Milwaukee that need some new life breathed into them,” said Curran. “It’s an incredible address, incredible location and a great opportunity to be part of the Third Ward, and anytime you can add the Milwaukee River or really any water element, it’s a huge bonus.”

Plus, the business needed an additional venue to help meet the continued surge in demand, thanks to a backlog of last year’s postponed events on top of new bookings. So far in 2022, The Ivy House and Filament together have about 200 events on the books; Milwaukee Airwaves is contracted for about 300 events. What’s more, there are already two weddings booked at The Starling, with several more in the works.

“We’re riding this wave of need, so getting into a third spot makes sense for us to service existing clients and other people that are looking to work with us, but we just don’t have the capacity,” said Curran.

The Starling will seat 150 to 200 people, which is a typical size for weddings these days, said Curran. Its expansive outdoor patio and bar space along the Milwaukee Riverwalk will also come in handy as COVID lingers. After a full facelift, the venue’s interior will feature a modern design, with vibrant colors and lighting. The front bar area will be redesigned to allow the space to double as a bar-restaurant when events aren’t taking place.

Renno and Curran are moving forward with the project amid ongoing supply chain issues that could make the process of launching and furnishing a new concept especially difficult. Luckily, the business took proactive steps to ensure its new venue would be ready by its springtime target opening. Curran said they placed some orders month ago once lease negotiations began.

“It’s something we respect, but we’re not concerned about it,” he said.

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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