January 26, 2009

Ivanhoe owner unveils plans for 'ultra lounge' on Main Street

An "ultra lounge," like this one in Birmingham, Mich., is coming to Downtown Racine

Doug Nicholson, owner of the Ivanhoe Pub and Grille, revealed plans for his new club, Envi, on Monday night while trying to secure a liquor license from the city's Public Safety and Licensing Committee.

The club is actually an "ultra lounge" planned for 316 Main St., the former home to Downtown's porn shop, Racine News. Nicholson is gutting the four-story building with plans of turning it into an upscale bar with a dance floor he hopes to open later this year. He's targeting Envi at an older crowd with a combination of pricier drinks, a more mature music selection and no smoking.

For fans of the Ivanhoe, the smoking ban may come as a surprise. But Nicholson said the first thing focus groups asked for was a smoke-free lounge. He added a smoking ban would differentiate Envi from Ivanhoe. If you want to dance, go to Envi. If you want to smoke, go to Ivanhoe, which is a block away. Nicholson is also building an outside deck on the back of Envi that will accommodate smokers.

The idea for Envi is based on ultra lounges that are popular in Las Vegas and other big cities. The model is spreading to smaller cities as an alternative to traditional bars, and is particularly attractive to women. Nicholson said he would target Envi toward women ages 30 to 55, with the belief that if they come, everyone else will follow.

The name Envi comes with an environmental twist Nicholson is putting on the concept. He's working to make the club "green," starting with the renovations. He's reusing most of the old flooring in the building, and recycling or reusing many of the interior fixtures. When finished, Nicholson plans on obtaining the "Travel Green" designation from the state of Wisconsin. He's hoping the combination of a sensual and environmentally conscious design will draw in a crowd willing to spend some money on a night out.

The proposal breezed through the city committee on a unanimous vote. Committee members raised questions about security and the general model, but seemed satisfied Nicholson knew what he was doing. And why not? He's running one of the most successful bars in the city (Ivanhoe) and holds a second liquor license for the Masonic Center.

Envi would employ about 10 people to start and would run 5:30 p.m. to close, Wednesday through Saturday. High-end appetizers would be served, but there wouldn't be a grill to support a full menu. Nicholson will still need a restaurant license to open the club, which may also include theme nights.

Nicholson said he's thinking about bringing Country-Western dance nights to Envi on Wednesdays, followed by an '80s night on Thursdays and a live DJ playing house/dance music on Fridays.

He addressed concerns about safety with plans for video cameras and an attempt to attract an upscale adult crowd that typically doesn't run into many problems. With Nicholson acknowledging Envi would be "risque" in nature, Alderman Jim Kaplan asked if he planned on bringing strippers back to Main Street. Nicholson said no, but didn't shy away from describing Envi as a place for adults.

"Sin city is what's working now," Nicholson said. "Who's kidding who? Sin and a provocative nature will occur."

39 comments:

  1. I think this guy is in for the business surprise of his life! Good luck trying to control the crowd. I think the city should look at those other "clubs" that are playing house music, they already have problems.not saying rap is any better. Country and house don't go together they are 2 diffrerent styles, it is like Rap and Tejano it just don't mix!Do the City alderman or anyone who reads this article even know what house music is? I bet he will be playing rap in 6 months after he opens just to pay his bills! Then see what the City Godfathers do to him!

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    1. Looks like you were an idiot on that one....

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  2. Does this guy read the paper, or watch the news on the economy????? Where are all these $50K and up people he's catering to?

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  3. Place will get trashed and hopefully the city requires him to have massive security...It's too bad we live in a shithole and can't have a nice place like this.....oh well, you better stick to running Ivanhoe Doug...

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  4. I think he will have a great crowd. Some of us have secure jobs and want a place to go, a nice place for midage with NO SMOKING. A nice place, good music, no rap. Yes! Yes!

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  5. Excellent idea, thanks Doug!

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  6. It's nice to have places where a business owner can freely decide how to run HIS business. If things don't work, he has the freedonm to make adjustments as HE deems necessary.

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  7. Anyone know if Doug owns the AMT in City Hall and who he may own it with?

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  8. Yes - it is HIS money and HIS risk! No TIF, no out-of-town developers who run national scams until some town plays along, it is a local guy trying to create a new business. Yes, there will be alcohol served. Would you prefer the downtown's ninth or tenth coffee shop? How about another art gallery or craptacular replacement for the craptacular Yellow Rose?

    Good luck on the project.

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  9. This is too cool. Likely too cool for Racine. Hope it goes over well. Good Luck. I will def. check it out!

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  10. The more surprising thing was the initial comments on this Post. It's clear "ENVI" is the problem with some folks. You can't please some people regardless of your vision or contribution and they will disparage as a means of making their miserable existence a little more tolerable. ANY development in this city is good. ANY entrepreneurial effort is good, regardless of the outcome. This owner knows what he is getting into and should create the success not hope for it and I am certain he will. As for rap? Not Doug, don't worry. And Mr. $50K, what is that, like every 6mos.? Go earn something better and get out here and enjoy yourself and stop dribbling.
    - MC

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  11. Doug knows what he is doing and this will be a great alternative to the dozens of corner bars in Racine. See you at Envi!!!

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  12. Urban Pioneer1/27/2009 1:15 PM

    Way to go Doug, and for all of you who last week were trashing his Ivanhoe restaurant for it's smoky atmosphere, should be thrilled that he's is creating a more upscale place and Smoke Free. Think "Pro-Choice" .I am an occasional "Hoe" patron, but this new place sounds like he designed it for me I'm in the 50k income bracket, I'm Single, adult middle-aged, non-smoker....And I like to Dance..Sounds fantastic Doug. Good luck and you'll get some of my money...Keep it classy. Another great place in Downtown!!!

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  13. I see that Becker's buddies still get a free pass. What a great time to be a drunk in Racine.

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  14. If you operate a bar in Racine you don't have freedom of choice for YOUR business. Once you have some problems the City can and will implement YOUR business as in age requirments like 24 and above,dress codes and what kind of entertainment you can have on certain nights. they will even go as far as to have you require RPD officers at YOUR establishment at a cost of $300 a night! If you have ever been to a commitee meeting you would know,it is even funnier when the City Godfather's try to revoke theses license's they so freely give out!

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  15. For those of you with concerns, have a talk with and get to know the guy and the business model you are bashing.
    This is a man with an interest in reviving downtown and has already done plenty in that vein. I have personally had thousands of hours of contact with the man and he will not let this fail or become a problem in the city because he doesn't know how to do those things.

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  16. Yay, nothing like this has ever existed in Racine, excellent!

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  17. Thank you for a non-smoking bar. This place will do fine as Ivanhoe is run smoothly without incident. He will control the music that is played as he has at his other bar.

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  18. If dude charges more than three dollars for a Coors Light I'm going to instead go next door to Salute and get me a loaf of cheese bread and walk across the street to Evelyn's and get two Coors Lights, all for less than six bucks.

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  19. Boring....this idea was done years ago, It was called The Bank,...........house music and $5 Corona's, this idea is about 10 years behind the times.....racine is not the place for it, it will be cool for the first 8 weeks, the novalty will wear off and then it's back to any one of the 20 other bars in the area.

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  20. Anon 10:02pm

    "How about another art gallery or craptacular replacement for the craptacular Yellow Rose? "

    That made me lol a bit. good one ^^

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  21. The Bank was not an Ultra Lounge.

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  22. R U kidding? For Racine it is as Ultra as it gets.

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  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  24. I wonder if Becker will be the bouncer checking all the ID's of the ladies out??

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  25. I think the concept is nice, it just too bad it has to be downtown where the parking sucks today!

    There are many places in Racine where an establishment of the type could be built. As an example, where the Piggly Wiggly is in West Racine.

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  26. West Raciner's would go nuts if they put it where Pig used to be. Just like they are about the proposed apartment bld.

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  27. What is the owner going to do when a certain race takes over the establishment and turns it into a dive? Go ahead, turn some away and see how fast discrimination complaints come pouring in. Sadly, wrong city to try this.

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  28. Being a woman in the "targeted range" I can tell you I can't wait! Finally a place women can go out with friends and dance!

    As for an establishment like this in West Racine - I don't think that could happen - isn't that area "dry"?

    I cannot think of a single establishment in West Racine that serves alcohol...

    See you on opening night!

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  29. Hey Mr. Coors light and cheese bread, thanks for proving our point. You go right ahead and take your business else where. I'm sure your presence will be sadly missed...

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  30. Can I say first and foremost, BRAVO!! As a lifetime resident of Racine I would like to commend Doug on all he has done for this town. As a kid, downtown was a dive and all it had to offer was our fabulous zoo. As an adult, I now live and work downtown and am proud of the place it has become. I have known Doug for over 6 years and anyone who will sit here and bash him for his efforts does so with much ignorance. He has been the one pushing for all the changes in Racine. He saw this town had opportunities and he took chances to make something great of this area. We all owe him a big thanks. You might not know this, but he is the one that has organized/initiated a lot of the parades, pub crawls and downtown events. He has really been a strong leader in improving our town and bringing business to this area. I agree that what we don't need is another crumby boutique or coffee shop and this could be good. Or it could flop. Either way, he believes in this town enough not to take his business elsewhere, such as Milwaukee, where it could be easy. He is taking the chance and spending his time and money here. And for that, he deserves respect if nothing else. As for those that don't believe we need another "bar", just try it once and see. It might not be for you or you could love it, either way it's worth checking out. And the parking situation, I apologize that Doug is not able to expand Main street and put in a parking lot for those of you lazy folks who can't walk more than two blocks but we could thank Johnson's for hoarding that fabulous empty lot behind the Ivanhoe every night. Empty, valuable space that they can't share...thank you SCJ. Way to set an example. And for the rest of you who feel discriminated against because your presence is not requested in an establishment for adults, well maybe then you have some growing up to do. As the saying goes, to get respect you've got to give it...
    Best of luck Doug! Slainte

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  31. you wonder why people don't come to racine in hope for a successful business, it's people like you bloggers that run them out before they even have a chance to open. I think it's a great idea and hopefully will help to bring the crowd of people that the downtown needs in order to stay alive.

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  32. Keep us updated on this venture, Racine Post....thanks!

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  33. I miss the bank.

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  34. This looks like a great place to hang out and relax. We look forward to frequenting what looks to be a very nice place!

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  35. Hopefully he won't do something stupid like hire strippers! Racine doesn't need that type of trash, the city has enough perverts stalking young girls. Who will be the customers? People from Chicago won't hang around, downtown Racine is too boring & has no attractive shopping venues. All we have is ghetto trash and severe alcoholism, since there's nothing else to do.Downtown Racine will never be Michigan Avenue in Chicago or the North Shore in Illinois!

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  36. I'm excited! I hope it does really well. About time something like this came to Racine!!! Thanks Doug ;)

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  37. is Envi a private club?

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