The new Ohio Tavern opened quietly last month, and started serving food a few weeks later, one of its owners said.
The bar opened on gallery night Oct. 7 and it went so well they decided to stay open, Kristi Genna said.
"We didn't want to do an invitation-only event because we didn't know who to invite and who not to invite," she said. "And once we were open, the windows are so big now, we couldn't tell people not to come in."
While they've done a couple of Facebook and Instagram posts, there's been no major announcement, said Genna, who owns the Ohio as well as Genna's Cocktail Lounge with Jack Williams. Their partner in the new venture is Josh Swentzel, who has worked at Genna's, Mickey's Tavern, The Tornado, the Harmony and Star Liquor.
The Ohio is having a grand opening party Nov. 29 and celebrating with karaoke, which it is reviving from the old Ohio, Swentzel said.
"Karaoke at the Ohio was always a really big thing and I'm a huge karaoke fan myself," he said. Karaoke will be offered on Tuesdays from then on. They have brought back Loretta Reaves, who ran karaoke at the old place for years.
The Ohio is stylish now and unrecognizable from the old bar at 224 Ohio Ave. The partners used almost nothing from the old tavern except the ceiling and back bar.
They plan to use other spaces in the building, which they do not own. That includes what until recently was the store Cosmic Delights, on the corner of Atwood and Ohio, and the empty narrow space next door.
There is no timetable yet for work on the other spaces. They just wanted to get the original bar up and running first, Genna said, noting they won't need as much room in wintertime.
In terms of food, they are just offering tacos, tamales and Mexican street corn each day from 4 p.m. to midnight. The tamales were added recently in a test run and have been a huge hit, Swentzel said.
Tim Williams, no relation to Jack Williams, is in charge of the food. He just moved to Madison from Miami, Florida, where he was co-owner of his own place, Genna said. "He knows what we are doing and it's been kind of an awesome thing."
During the Chicago Cubs' run to the pennant, people had been gathering to watch the games, and at the time Genna joked that it was turning into a Cubs bar. People also gather there to watch the Badgers and Packers play.
"We couldn't be happier about it," Swentzel said. "It was really surprising, but we have more of a relaxing environment for games than your average sports bar, so it's a place for everybody else to watch the games."
The World Series was a party the whole time, he said.
Added Genna, "On the East Side, we're kind of a cool sports bar that's not super sporty."