Home » Featured » ‘Amazing people’ make The Bar specialGreen Bay’s The Bar set to celebrate 50 years

‘Amazing people’ make The Bar special
Green Bay’s The Bar set to celebrate 50 years

By Kevin Damask

Laurie Olson was looking for a special neighborhood bar that felt like home.

Olson, a Green Bay resident, walked into The Bar on the city’s east side more than 20 years ago.
She’s been coming back weekly ever since.

Olson, and many other Green Bay area residents who’ve called The Bar a second home, will be celebrating this fall as the establishment marks its 50th anniversary.

The Bar plans to run specials all week Nov. 7-13 with live music and volleyball tournaments.

The Bar, owned by Jess Miller, is known for having good food, and Olson comes in regularly for lunch.
She said the atmosphere appeals to patrons spanning multiple generations.

“We don’t do the night scene anymore, but it’s awesome during the day,” Olson said. “There are lots of retired people who stop in for lunch. You get to know pretty much the whole crowd. Everyone is like long-lost friends. You get to know people outside of the bar as well.”

The Bar’s friendly staff are good people who draw customers back, Olson said.

Laura VanBoxel, a bartender at The Bar’s Lime Kiln Road location, has been slinging drinks and putting smiles on customers’ faces for more than 30 years.

“She’s a very good friend of ours,” Olson said. “She’s here all the time, and that just shows the loyalty of the people who work here. She’s a big reason why we keep coming here.”

Olson has created many fond memories and developed close-knit connections at The Bar through the years.

In 2019, she held her retirement party there.

“The people that come in here are like family,” Olson said. “Jess always comes out and talks to us. I know all the managers. It’s just awesome. You know what you’re going to get when you go there.”

Bar catches on in 1970s
In the early ‘70s, Green Bay’s east side had many different bars, but The Bar found its niche among a crowded field.

The venue was established by John Miller, Jess’ father and his business partner John Duckett in 1972.

The tavern’s original location was in a bustling part of town known as “Little Chicago.”

Duckett and John Miller couldn’t come up with a catchy name, so “The Bar” was born.

“They wanted to keep it simple and they did,” Jess Miller said.

Founded 50 years ago on Lime Kiln Road on Green Bay’s east side, The Bar has grown to include six locations throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. Josh Staloch Photo

In 1988, Jess Miller became co-owner with Duckett, bringing many changes.

Miller introduced a food menu in the late ‘80s.

He started serving chicken wings before most bars in Green Bay had even heard of buffalo wings.

“In the mid-80s, there probably was a little lull in the business,” Miller said. “That’s why we built the volleyball courts. Volleyball and our own buffalo wings… that was the spark of a new era for us.”

Adult volleyball leagues came along in 1989 and are still a major draw for The Bar.

Miller said there was a boom in recreational volleyball in the ‘90s and it helped increase The Bar’s popularity.

Every league was full.

In fact, volleyball was so popular that it bumped a future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band from playing there in the summer of 1993.

“It was Green Day,” Miller admits. “We had about 25-30 teams playing on a Sunday night, which was sure money. We didn’t want to interrupt that. Yeah, we turned down Green Day just to keep volleyball going on a Sunday night. That was right before ‘Dookie’ came out, which was huge for them.”

The success of The Bar’s east side venue allowed it to expand to five additional locations from 1992-2005, opening two locations in Appleton, a second bar along Holmgren Way in Green Bay, and one location each in Oshkosh and Wausau.

Getting to know employees and forging friendships has made the countless hours of running a bar special through the years, Miller said.

“A lot of them worked here as a college job or maybe a second job early in their careers and went on to do cool things. It’s always nice to talk to some of the old employees that have been here,” Miller said. “We have a lot of really good people who’ve worked here through the years.”

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