Madison is known for its rigorous academics, beautiful lakes and, of course, vibrant nightlife. You can’t be voted the number one college town so many times without a decent bar scene. And that’s exactly what Madison, especially downtown, prides itself on.
As the pandemic experienced a summer dip, a few big-time bars have expanded to provide new services to Madison residents. Some bars like Whiskey Jack’s, the Double U and City Bar have reopened to almost full or full capacity and are serving their full menu.
Red Rock, Chaser’s Bar and Grille — as well as Chaser’s 2.0 — and Wando’s have made moves, some quite literally, to enhance the weekend and the occasional weekday night scene. Whether it’s moving to a more popular location, a gift shop or even opening another venue, these bars cater passionately to the public and maintain the award-winning college town culture.
Chaser’s and Chaser’s 2.0
Chaser’s is a sports bar located right off of State Street and is a popular place on weekdays and weekends alike. The bar and restaurant serves sandwiches and burgers and is known for its wacky and fun events, including trivia, or “Pub Quiz,” and the wheel they spin each hour for specials.
But earlier this year, Core Spaces of Chicago proposed a development plan for a new ten-story apartment with market-priced and “affordable workforce” units. This would also include a space for retail stores at the crossover of State and West Gorham.
They plan to front the 300-block of Johnson Street, which would put the surrounding stores out of business. Chaser’s is one of the many stores that would be demolished in this plan. Thinking ahead, the bar bought the old Nomad building near Riley’s Wines of the World and transformed it into Chaser’s 2.0.
The bar is a smaller version of its older sibling and has a full-functioning bar and a string-lighted rooftop. They are only open on the weekends, and according to images from their website, serve ice cream treats as well as alcoholic beverages. With no word from Chaser’s regarding the development project, the bar will maintain both establishments until further information is posted.
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Red Rock Saloon
A Madison favorite, the Red Rock Saloon is a bar and music venue that’s known for its mechanical bull, which coincides with the infamous rodeo bucking bull of the nineties, “Red Rock.” Additionally, the establishment hosted a fully-functioning bar, kitchen and stage where country and other artists played for wide-eyed and buck-eyed customers alike.
But with the same development plan, Red Rock was forced to find a new space to avoid potential demolition. HopCat on State closed earlier this year, giving Red Rock the lucky break it needed to move and continue its business.
A date has not been confirmed, but it is planning to open its doors sometime this fall with more space for customers and a new 360-degree bar and rooftop seating.
Wando’s Bar & Grill
Wando’s is known for its popular fishbowl drinks and multiple building stories of bar games and restaurant seating. It is a Madison-classic whose expansion will keep its customers warm for the fall and patriotic to the bar.
Wando’s is one of the many that are trying to take advantage of the recent trend of bar apparel. Spearheaded by the Kollege Klub, a person couldn’t walk down State Street last year without seeing the classic white and red crewneck. Wando’s, however, is upping its game with a new purchase of the Crave Donuts right across from its current location.
The building is filled with hangers of Wando’s apparel, which suggests the building will be used as a new gift shop for the bar and grill. According to Red Rock’s website, it also plans to do something similar in their reopening, so be sure to look out for your favorite bars to drop their merch.
Though it brews excitement downtown, the Madison night scene is getting a facelift that seems too soon with the pandemic still active in the community. The University of Wisconsin reported 90% of its students are vaccinated, but customers of these bars should still be careful and remain up to date with COVID-19 guidelines. But overall, these updates bring hope that the worst is behind us. Maybe soon, we’ll be able to make a return to our favorite bars in new locations and in new apparel.