Local restaurateurs Matt and Hannah Kealy say they plan to dramatically transform a former pub and restaurant on a visible downtown street corner into a new night spot: The Draft House.
The former Time Out Pub & Eatery on the corner of Milwaukee and Main streets will become a “gastropub” that Matt Kealy said will add a streamlined, urban feel to the heart of downtown Janesville.
The Draft House will breathe new life into Prospect 101’s ground floor space, which might seem like a keystone location but has been vacant for almost a year since Time Out closed last summer.
The Draft House will be a dinner and drinks spot that will serve up a 24-tap selection of mainly regional craft beers, along with creative and urbane twists on American bar food.
The space, which the Kealys are leasing, will undergo renovation in coming days. The Kealys plan to build a new bar that will put patrons in a modified horseshoe orientation on the Milwaukee Street and Main Street sides of the room.
“It’s a way to capture the vibe of downtown from the inside, and to let people on the street really see the party inside,” Matt said.
Floor plans show a clean, open layout with a squared-away, urban look. Kealy said he’s planning wall murals that surround guests with scenes from Prohibition-era Wisconsin—a tip of the cap to the state’s beer-brewing past.
The feel: Janesville-meets-metro.
Matt lays it out this way: “Anywhere you go, you can have a burger. But it’s what you do with the toppings, the meat. And we’ve got some ideas, some interesting spins on that.”
The Kealys aren’t saying a lot about the menu right now, at least in part because the cuisine plans—along with the space itself—are under construction. Hannah Kealy said they’ll know more about the Draft House’s specialties soon when they hire a chef and kitchen staff.
“We’re going to let creativity sort of do its thing. We’ll let the chef and the staff steer things. It’s what they’re trained and schooled to do, and we want to let them do that. It’ll be collaborative. It takes a team,” Hannah said.
The Draft House will be just one door south of a storefront where in 2012 Matt relocated Matt’s Dog House, a fast-serve hot dog and Italian beef sandwich shop he ran with late-night hours to ply downtown’s bar-time crowd.
The Dog House lasted only a year and a half on North Main Street (the location now houses a coffee shop), but Kealy said he feels much has changed in the downtown area since earlier this decade.
Along Main Street, a half-dozen new eateries have taken root in vacant or underused spaces, offering such fare as Asian fusion, tapas and craft cocktails, smoky barbecue, specialty salads, and fresh coffee.
It’s enough to persuade the Kealys to give one of downtown’s hot corners a try.
“I feel like the foot traffic alone on Main Street is vastly improved since earlier this decade. It’s really starting to feel like the heart of downtown Janesville,” Matt said.
The Kealys also own Kealy’s Kafe, a breakfast and lunch family restaurant at 1010 N. Washington St.
Hannah said she’s been asked if top menu items from Kealy’s Kafe will migrate to The Draft House. The Kafe’s menu has dozens of items, and it has shifted in recent years to become a breakfast-brunch spot.
The Draft House will offer signature, night-on-the-town dining with a well-tended cocktail or craft beer, Hannah said, and a smaller, more focused menu.
“If you’ve got a tighter, smaller menu, which is what we’d go for, you can just completely knock it out of the park on every single thing. That’s what we want.”
Outside the future gastropub’s window Monday, on the East Milwaukee Street side of the building, a mother duck nestled in the mulch, protecting a nest of eggs.
The duck peered through the glass into the space that by September will house The Draft House.
Like the duck, some people already have caught wind of the action in Prospect 101. Like the duck, people already are starting to peek into the windows, Hannah said.
“It’s given us a lot of confidence to see that kind of excitement coming from everyone,” she said.