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New nightspot afoot in downtown

Lucky Rabbit to feature live music, relaxed atmosphere

Bartender Diedre Efferding and Kitchen Manager Daryl Heil display the signature Santaigo taco and classic Pepperoni pizzas at the Lucky Rabbit bar in Waukesha on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.

Bartender Diedre Efferding and Kitchen Manager Daryl Heil display the signature Santaigo taco and classic Pepperoni pizzas at the Lucky Rabbit bar in Waukesha on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Photo By Scott Ash

Feb. 5, 2013

A new downtown Waukesha night spot is opening this month hoping to bring live entertainment, a wide variety of beer, and a relaxed lounge environment to the area.

The Lucky Rabbit, 200 Madison St., had a "soft opening" Feb. 1 and will be open select days through February. The former Yankee Saloon has undergone a transformation, turning the decades old corner bar into a warm, relaxed environment for dancing, live music and spirits.

Owner Phillip Santiago started working on the venture seven months ago. Current owner of Fuzzy's Sports Pub and Grill, Santiago teamed up with two young managers to bring something he felt Waukesha needed.

"When you're done eating or you're out at 9 o'clock, where do you go for entertainment?" Santiago said. "Do you have to leave town?"

That gave Santiago the idea to use the existing stage at Yanke Saloon in a way he could not at Fuzzy's, to bring live music to the night scene.

"Over the past 25 years the place became run down and had the reputation of being the dive bar in Waukesha, and so I just want to turn some heads and turn that whole idea around," Santiago said.

As the renovations developed they became more extensive. According to Santiago, the renovation led to the discovery of structural and electrical issues which taxed their timeline and budget. "Whether it was a total success, or a total failure or something in-between and least we went for it. We tried," Santiago said. "The true dreamer who has a vision--- falling down won't keep them from doing it."

Along with his wife, Santiago looked through a file of names they had accumulated over time and The Lucky Rabbit stood out.

"We both started laughing and that one just stuck," Santiago said. "We thought if it made us laugh it would have other people laughing too and that's a good indication of what direction this place is going to go."

Peter Hable, a friend of Santiago, has been in the business for nearly 10 years. Hable will be a manager of The Lucky Rabbit and said the bar is unique to the area and that the possibilities are endless.

"We'll have live entertainment every Friday or Saturday, either a DJ or a live band," Hable said. "We've talked about doing a jazz duo or trio on Wednesdays or a solo act on a Thursday night so we're hoping to appeal to a broad demographic."

Santiago said that the bar hopes to bring in local bands, but also bands that have established followings.

"We're hoping to make downtown Waukesha a destination for the followers of some of those bands," Santiago said. "There's a quick way in (to Waukesha), a quick way out, and plenty of parking."

Hable said the spot hopes to attract customers with its pizza, 80-inch flat screen TV in addition to five other televisions and its lounge inspired seating with plush couches and chairs. The Lucky Rabbit will feature more than 24 tap beers with a Wisconsin craft brew emphasis.

Although The Lucky Rabbit just had its soft opening, the bar has already started to create a buzz with its young social-media driven crowd. Its Facebook page has nearly 450 likes and interactions with visitors are already calling it a "local hot spot" and a "great atmosphere."

"We're lucky to have a great network of people who are already helping me with photos and networking," Hable said. "(Social media) is almost like a fire that spreads by itself."

The Lucky Rabbit will be open weeknights from 4 until close and Saturday and Sunday from noon until close. They are currently open for walk-in customers as they continue to work out a final schedule.

"We're going to have a celebration, party, plaque commemoration, special guests and all that," Hable said. "That will be our grand opening and that will be soon. We want to crawl, then walk, then run."

FYI

Who: The Lucky Rabbit

What: New downtown

Waukesha nightspot

When: Open select days in

February until hours are finalized.

Where: 200 Madison St.,

Waukesha

What's More: First live is

scheduled for March 9

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