Home away from home
New House of Guinness owners eager to serve regulars,
new and old

By Cara Spoto - Freeman Staff

Dec. 16, 2017

Business partners Ian Cliffe, left, and Keith Kucharski inside House of Guinness, 354 W. Main St., in Waukesha. The pair teamed up earlier this year with Ian Cliffe's wife, Ellie Martin Cliffe, and his sister, Elizabeth Cliffe, to buy the downtown haunt.
Cara Spoto -Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - The House of Guinness has been part of the lives of Ian Cliffe and his brother-in-law Keith Kucharski since it opened in 2000.

The Irish band Kucharski plays in had its very first show at the popular Main Street haunt, and Cliffe met his wife, and now business partner, there.

Now the two men have teamed up with their wives, Elizabeth Cliffe and Ellie Martin Cliffe, to keep the bar’s legacy going for future generations.

The partners recently toasted the new venture with a bit of Irish whiskey and a lot of cheer at a grand opening attended by Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly.

The quartet purchased the bar in June and since then have been boosting the mainstay’s Irish character, while working hard not to change the things people have to come to love about the place.

“The hardest challenge in coming in here as new owners was trying to maintain what the (bar) has become over the 17 years while giving it a bit of new life,” Ian Cliffe said. “The first St. Paddy’s Day this bar had is the first St. Paddy’s Day I was ever in a bar.”

While they have changed little about the ambience of the bar — aside from removing the stage that once sat at the front of the establishment — the partners have introduced a few changes they believe regulars, new and old, will enjoy.

“We are really pushing a beer program that is focused on Ireland, England and Scotland,” Ian Cliffe said. “We have 22 taps, six of them are focused on Wisconsin crafts, everything else is imported.”

The bar will also be putting a greater focus on Irish whiskeys and a select number of Scotches. And tothrow in a bit of a twist, it will soon begin offering cocktails.

“We hope to be known for the best Irish coffee, and, you will get one of the best Old Fashioneds here,” said Ian Cliffe, who cut his teeth managing bars and restaurants in the Milwaukee area, including Fink’s, a rustic watering hole that has dubbed itself the “everyman’s cocktail bar.”

As was previously the case, the bar won’t offer its own food, but patrons can enjoy chips on the house, or order a frozen pizza if they are so inclined.

Mostly, the owners just want everyone to feel welcome.

“We want everyone to walk in the doors and feel at home,” Kucharski said.