People’s Park to open downtown Milwaukee location

Owners of the People’s Park restaurant in downtown Waukesha are planning a second location, in downtown Milwaukee.

The eatery will transform a space long home to Flannery’s Bar & Restaurant at 425 E. Wells St., across the street from Cathedral Square Park. Flannery’s will have its last day of service on Jan. 29 after more than 25 years in business, according to a recent announcement via social media.

Jim and Dan Taylor, who first opened People’s Park in 2010, are hardly newcomers to the high-traffic corner of East Wells and North Jefferson streets. The brothers and business partners, along with Jim’s wife, Susie, also own Taylor’s bar, which shares its west-facing wall with the Flannery’s space. In October, the Taylors purchased the single-story building for $949,400 from Dan Helfer, the former owner of Real Chili – another longtime tenant situated on the west end of the building.

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Now, the operators plan to give the property a new look as they add People’s Park to the growing list of new establishments on the block.

Plans are in the works to add a second-story rooftop deck to the future People’s Park space. Jim Taylor likened the planned addition to a “glass atrium,” complete with restrooms, elevator access, an indoor-outdoor bar, and large windows and glass garage doors that will open and close with the seasons. All told, the restaurant will boast a seating capacity of 330 people, including 160 on the upper floor and 170 on the ground floor, which includes plans for an expanded outdoor dining area thanks to the city’s plans to redesign East Wells Street with 19-foot-wide sidewalks.

The Taylors had sought to buy the East Wells Street property ever since they started leasing its corner space to open Taylor’s in 1995. Years later, as business at People’s Park picked up and the restaurant developed a reputation in Waukesha for quality food, reasonable prices and a friendly atmosphere, its owners realized that Cathedral Square would be a “tremendous location” for a second location.

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“(The building) is maybe three blocks from City Hall and from all the high-end apartment buildings going up in the surrounding blocks, and there’s really nowhere that’s reasonable to eat,” said Jim Taylor. “… I knew Flannery’s lease was over Dec. 31 of 2022, and I knew they weren’t renewing, so the timing was kind of perfect.”

While People’s Park may be an entirely new concept to some downtown Milwaukee diners, Taylor expects the concept to be a huge draw for East Town residents, especially given the close proximity of the new Ascent apartment tower on East Kilbourn Avenue as well as the nearby Juneau Village Towers and Yankee Hill apartments.

“I believe all those people will look across (Cathedral Square Park) and see the light emulating out of the glass rooftop of the new restaurant,” he said. “They’ll see 80 people sitting on the rooftop at tables, and they’ll see the people on the newly redone Wells Street, sitting out at table tops with heaters, and they’ll be like, ‘Wow, that place is busy, let’s check it out.'”

Taylor also mentioned the resurgence of dining along North Jefferson Street, including the recent addition of Safina’s (an Italian eatery from the operators of Giovanni’s) and the forthcoming relocation of Electric Lime Taqueria to the former Mikey’s space directly across from Cathedral Square Park.

The news has already been well received since Urban Milwaukee first reported it last week. Taylor said he was at a party over the weekend where he was approached by at least 30 people who congratulated him and expressed excitement about the plans. Despite their shared building, Taylor’s bar and the new People’s Park will be kept as separate business and physical entities, as requested by the bar’s longtime loyal customers, said Taylor.

The bar area at People’s Park is annually decked out in spooky decor for Halloween.

For the most part, People’s Park in Milwaukee will offer the same food menu as the Waukesha location, with the possible additions of items such as grilled halibut and raw oysters. Taylor said food makes up 70% of the restaurant’s sales.

The new People’s Park is slated to open by June 2024, said Taylor. Erik Madisen of Madisen Maher Architects has been hired as the project architect; the firm also designed People’s Park in Waukesha. A structural engineer has been hired to perform soil boring tests, which will determine the type of column supports needed for the second-story addition. Project plans will be submitted to the city by June 1 for an estimated exterior construction start date of Dec. 1.

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