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West Racine is getting its first bar in more than 100 years

Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-16 19:49:31-05

There’s a part of Southeast Wisconsin that’s never had a bar or liquor store because the sale of alcohol was banned.

West Racine has been considered a “dry district” for more than 98 years, since before prohibition. In the 1930’s, the federal government gave cities and states the option to keep some districts alcohol-free. West Racine was one of those districts until last year when city aldermen voted to change that. Now, history is being made there.

John Dunk bought an old empty store, “Security Finance,” at 3207 Washington Ave., and is transforming it into the first bar the neighborhood’s ever had.

“It used to be a bakery until the late 1960s,” Dunk said. “A lot of history here. This was a very, very heavy Danish area.”

But this stretch of Washington Avenue in West Racine isn’t exactly thriving when it comes to new business.

“I choose to invest here because there’s a need,” Dunk said. “It’s a great area. I raised my kids here. There is a really strong residential community. It’s been struggling a bit commercially. But it’s right in the middle of the city. Neighbors will now have an option in their community to come together for a meal or a drink.”

Neal Wilson owns Wilson’s Coffee and Tea down the street.

“I’m happy the bar is coming,” he said. “I’d much rather have a place people can enjoy and be social than say a payday loan store or something like that. Having more reasons to come into West Racine is a good thing for everybody.”

But some people have always taken pride in the fact that this neighborhood is one of the only left in the country without any bars.

“Not having bars here was a unique, interesting and great idea,” Clina Barrette said. “I think we have enough bars in town. People don't need another place to go and drink.”

Overall, there’s been a lot of support for the addition of a bar on Washington Avenue in West Racine. It’s already been approved by the city’s public safety and licensing committees. It’s expected to get the approval of Racine’s full Common  Council on Tuesday night. There will be opportunity for public comment.