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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lights Out

After four years, Red Light says goodnight

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One of Milwaukee’s most esteemed dance venues is dimming its lights for the final time Aug. 4.

  Mike Eitel, co-owner of Diablos Rojos Restaurant Group and the company behind Red Light (1758 N. Water St.), announced last week that the lofted lounge will hold its last regular show next weekend. A growing demand for banquets, private parties and special events at the Trocadero restaurant downstairs has forced the company to close Red Light, he says.

  The company indicated that the closure of the lounge was “temporary.” Eitel and business partner Eric Wagner are reportedly considering another location for Red Light, which may reopen as a large, full-service nightclub as early as next year.

  “We had a great run with (DJs) and bands in an edgier setting than the Trocadero, but it is time to add to our offerings in what is becoming a highly lucrative market,” Eitel stated in a press release. “People are booking more and more functions despite the economy, and that has become a substantial piece of our economic framework.”

  Red Light thrived as one Milwaukee’s most diverse dance-music venues, playing host to a variety of events, including the house-heavy monthly Boompty! series and the weekly Babylon series. Both parties attracted a diverse—if not always consistent—mix of clubgoers.

  “I wasn’t too surprised to hear about it,” says Georgie (aka Geewiz), who co-promoted Boompty! with Chicago-based DJ and promoter Mike More. While their last event with house headliner Luke McKeehan failed to draw many attendees, previous events had proven profitable for the both the promotion team and the club. But Geewiz doesn’t think one poorly attended party is behind the closure.

  “It’s a business issue. The owners and management are just doing what they need to do,” says the promoter, who is looking to relocate the event. “It was a nice spot. (I hope) they open up again in a different location.”

  The promotion team behind the weekly Babylon event is also seeking a new venue for their well-attended Thursday-night party.

  Between now and next summer, Diablos Rojos is focusing its efforts on opening three more restaurants in Milwaukee. Eitel said he is unsure where Red Light might be relocated, but guessed that the location would be “downtownish.”

  In the meantime, he adds that many of the popular events held at Red Light will be booked as special events rather than weekly ones.

  “These offerings will be expanded to include wine dinners, beer tastings and even an auction this fall of the large-format photographs of the world’s most famous red-light districts,” Eitel stated in a press release.

  The shows booked for Aug. 15 and 16—including one featuring DJ Heather—will be held as planned, Eitel assures. The venue may host other one-off shows as well if they have the potential for profitability, he says.

“It just (won’t be) an ‘every Friday’ or ‘every other Tuesday’ kind of thing,” he explains.

  Following the closure, Red Light will make way for space to accommodate private parties and events. Diablos Rojos Director of Operations Gordon Goggin said that the demand for private party space has been growing over the past few years.

  “Groups are asking for their own bar, their own space. We keep bumping up against our own programming as people request banquets, showers, company outings and other events,” he said in a release.

  Milwaukeeans can usher out Red Light with a four-day party featuring resident DJ and co-promoter John Murges. The event begins July 31 at the Babylon series and continues on Aug. 1 with Minneapolis house DJ and live bassist Jevne. Chicago’s Acidman hauls his old-school house swagger up to Milwaukee Aug. 2, while locals E-Rich and Why B wrap up the weekend Aug. 3 with their best brand of hip-hop.

Doors open at 9 p.m. for all shows. Cover charges vary. Check local listings.

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