June 30, 2009

Going Out: Joey's on Lathrop gives classic tavern a modern look

The interior of Joey's on Lathrop.

Joey LeGath prides himself on owning working-class bars with few frills.

"They're shot-and-a-beer places," LeGath said.

But as his newest bar Joey's on Lathrop shows, a traditional Racine bar doesn't mean a dive. LeGath invested $100,000 into his bar at 2054 Lathrop Ave. (across from Buckets) to create a sleek interior, refined bathrooms and a promising outdoor patio area. He even spent $10,000 on a European-style front window to create an open-air feel during the summer months.

LeGath's wife, Anna LeGath, designed the interior and bathrooms and Realistic Builders, of Racine, did the work.

The open front window.

The investment is paying off. LeGath said the first night at Joey's on Lathrop was his best night ever and crowds have been strong ever since. He described the bar's customers as a "nice, diverse crowd that's well behaved." They're also not looking to order anything too exotic.

LeGath laughed recalling a story from when a designer asked him where he wanted a blender station behind the bar at Joey's on Lathrop. The bar doesn't serve any kind of blended drinks, so if you're looking for an ice cream drink you'll want to try another bar.

"A margarita on the rocks is probably our most expensive drink," LeGath said.

With the smoking ban coming next year, LeGath built an outdoor patio that extends the bar behind the building. (If you do visit, park in the lot behind the bar.) He's working out a few details, but eventually the patio will have seating for smokers or simply people looking to sit outside on a nice night.

LeGath opened Joey's on Lathrop in November 2008 partly due to nostalgia. He remembered his parents taking him there when it was Mully's American Bar and the bartenders wore ties to work. (Mully's opened on Lathrop in 1957 after moving from Main St.)

"I remember it fondly," LeGath said. "I like buying bars that have been in the community a long time."
The patio behind Joey's on Lathrop.

LeGath's background in bars started working for his father, Art LeGath, a retired Milwaukee police officer who owned several restaurants in Racine including George Webb's, Mary's Restaurant on Taylor and the Hitching Post restaurant with a donut shop inside.

Joey's on Lathrop is LeGath's fourth bar in the Racine area. His first was Joey's on Taylor, which he took over from his father. LeGath is planning the bar's 25th anniversary this August with a block party on Meachem Street.

He then bought Joey's on Douglas, which will be open six years in October, and then Joey's on Sixth, which is going on four years.

All four bars share LeGath's basic belief in creating a place for people to relax and have a few drinks.

"We have some of the best prices in town," LeGath said. "We're serving a working-class crowd."

Details: Joey's on Lathrop

Owner: Joey LeGath
Address: 2054 Lathrop Ave., Racine
Opened: November 2008
Entertainment: Pool, darts, video slots, jukebox, flat-screen TVs, plans for live music
Food: Frozen pizzas (Buckets Pub across the street)
Specials: Happy Hour every day from 3-7 p.m. with $2 domestic beers and rail drinks