It's been four months since TJ Aliota's closed its doors, but now a new family member has taken the place over with plans to open a completely remodeled bar under a new name.
John Aliota, the new owner of the bar at 261 E Hampton Road in Milwaukee, has taken it "down to the studs" with the intent of completely remodeling and opening the pub and grill in June. The new bar, which will be called Aliota's Pub and Grill, will have new floors, walls, and furniture, all without the old smoky smell from the old bar.
The bar will have a slightly different look, with exposed ductwork on the ceiling, food and drink specials written on the chalkboard and nine large flat-screen televisions that provide a view for every seat in the bar and restaurant area.
Despite TJ Aliota's closing, Aliota said he is optimistic that his position close to the borders of Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, Milwaukee and Glendale is an ideal spot for a neighborhood pub.
"I still think there is such a demand for something innovative, something where people can come and watch sports and talk with each other," Aliota said. "There's still a demand for a good neighborhood bar at an affordable price."
TJ Says Goodbye
The reinvention of the old TJ Aliota's marks the end of a 31-year run for the neighborhood sports bar.
The owner and founder of the bar, Thomas J. Aliota, ran the bar with his son Thomas J. Aliota, Jr. until January, when the recession and "unforeseen circumstances" forced Thomas, Jr. and the business into bankruptcy.
Thomas, Jr. said he was humbled whenever someone compared his bar to "Cheers," because that's exactly how he saw it.
"I'm going to miss all the fine years I shared with our loyal customers," he said. "We had a lot of fun times."
Thomas, Jr. has worked in bars since he was 18, when his dad opened Aliota's Big Stein at 617 N. Plankington Avenue, which was later bought by the city through eminent domain to make way for Grand Avenue Mall. Aliota will not have a hand in his brother's new bar, and he plans to get out of the bar industry in general.
Thomas Aliota, Sr. still owns all of the spaces in the Hampton Avenue retail strip except Allegra Network.
A New Chapter
Aliota's has been remodeled four times over the past three decades, eventually transforming from a fine dining restaurant to a casual sports bar.
TJ Aliota, Jr. said the recession is hurting bars all across the Milwaukee area, and he found it hard to draw young people away from newer bars on Water Street.
"They’re dropping like flies all around us," he said. "It’s scary out there."
With the new bar, Alitoa's brother John will have help from that hard-to-reach younger generation. John's son David Aliota said he and his dad are keeping their focus on the customer, as they come up with ways to draw people in. Some strategies include a shuttle bus to Summerfest and Brewers games and sponsorship of local sports teams from Whitefish Bay, Nicolet and Shorewood.
"We're coming at this from the mind of a customer," David said. "We want everybody to have the kind of experience that we would like to have as a customer."