Schooner Pub owner says he’s interested in Exploreum

He tells city officials he would turn museum building into event venue
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The owner of Schooner Pub told the Port Washington Finance and License Committee  Tuesday that he is interested in purchasing the neighboring Port Exploreum building and turning it into an event venue.

Bill Schwalbe, who bought Schooner Pub from longtime owner Mark “Chico” Poull earlier this year, told the committee he wanted members’ input into the idea.

“I’ve got some cool ideas to share,” he said.

Schwalbe said that he would like to operate the Exploreum as an event venue, booking weddings, reunions and other parties that can’t be accommodated at Schooner.

“That would be a cool space in winter where I could book parties,” he said.

Schooner, he added, could cater these events.

He would need to obtain a liquor license, Schwalbe said, asking if the city has one available for the building if he can’t cover the Exploreum under the Schooner license.

Ald. Dan Benning, a member of the committee, said the city has four licenses available.

City Clerk Susan Westerbeke said she checked with the state and confirmed that Schwalbe would need a second license for the Exploreum.

“It is clearly two separate addresses,” she said, noting the buildings are separated by an alley.

If in the future Schwalbe were to link the two buildings, perhaps with a skywalk over the alley, the city would have to review the situation to see if one license would suffice, Westerbeke said.

Schwalbe asked the committee if an event venue is the sort of use they want to see in the building, but members stressed they were tasked with looking strictly at  licensing issues.

Ald. Deb Postl, a member of the committee, noted that the Port Exploreum has hosted events since its inception.

“I think it’s creating a unique concept,” Benning said. “It complements what you’ve got.”

Prior to purchasing Schooner, Schwalbe was a business consultant. He had worked in the business world for 15 years, he said, but before that spent a fair amount of time working in the hospitality industry.

The Exploreum is owned by the Port Washington Historical Society, which has operated it as a maritime museum since 2015.

In March, society officials said the interactive museum has not generated enough income to come close to covering its costs so they were looking to sell or lease the building at 118 N. Franklin St. after it closes in September.   

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