Duke’s Country Saloon in Kenosha is under new ownership, with plans to reopen in mid-February with an expanded food menu and the return of live performances.
The new owners, young couple Dade Bloomfield and Cali Buchino, bought the business at 2324 18th St. late last year, closing the doors on Dec. 30. They’ve spent the last few weeks working to get everything in order, including licenses, vendors and more.
Buchino said they’re hoping to create an inviting hangout location for customers, offering an expanded list of food and local artists providing live music to create a “chill environment.”
“Duke’s is known as a party bar, but we want to push the ‘hangout’ crowd,” Buchino said. “We’ll still be fun, but not crazy.”
Whether its sports, drinks, food, music or a game of darts, Bloomfield said they want to make it a welcoming space for customers.
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“We’re a place that can be relied on for country music and a safe time,” Bloomfield said. “We want it to be warm, inviting, somewhere you can have a swing and watch the game with friends.”
Duke’s Country Saloon will still stay true to its name, however. The two country music fans plan to keep the theming and aesthetic, including the swing bar seats hanging from the ceiling and western movie art decorating the walls.
“It’s fun to embrace it; it gives us a niche,” Buchino said. “We love it.”
While the couple is new to the business, they say the saloon is their “passion project,” a way to give back to the community and invest themselves into a personal enterprise.
Buchino, a Kenosha native, works in real estate, but said she wanted to do something that more directly impacted the community.
“It’s fun, but it’s a lot of selling yourself,” Buchino said. “This is selling a product, an experience.”
Bloomfield, born in Gurnee, Ill., actually has some background in bars. During his time stationed in Japan while in the Navy, he was given permission to work as a bartender at local bars.
“I really enjoyed it,” Bloomfield said. “I don’t know what it means necessarily, but I come from a family of bartenders.”
Buchino said they’d talked about owning a restaurant or bar together for some time.
“It’s always something we’d talked about being interested in,” Buchino said. “We were keeping an eye out for something.”
When the opportunity for Duke’s came up, they jumped at it. While touring the saloon, both said they were immediately drawn to the business.
“We got in the car, didn’t even say anything,” Buchino said. “We just were like, ‘We’re doing this.’”
Buchino, who handles the business-side of the saloon, admits it’s been a quick learning curve to get Duke’s ready to reopen, as she works to get the proper paperwork and licenses through. Bloomfield meanwhile has been pulling together vendors and talking with salespeople, and both have spent long nights at the saloon cleaning up.
“It’s a lot,” Buchnio said. “But it’s fun. You see your hard work get put into something that’s yours.”
Despite the challenges, the pair were optimistic and said they look forward to opening again to the public.
“We’re really excited, we’re looking forward to getting in here, meeting everybody and being a part of the community,” Buchino said.
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