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PTG to close the Back Room in favor of new East Side venue

 Five musicians perform on stage in a darkened concert venue with a room full of people watching them.

Pabst Theater Group (PTG) on Monday announced it will close the Back Room @ Colectivo by the end of 2023 and move to a new venue on the East Side just a few blocks south.

The group agreed to purchase the building at 1818 N. Farwell Ave., which was previously listed as “plug and play retail and office space” by New Land Enterprises but clearly will get a very different use when it opens in 2024. Three restaurants currently occupy the space and will remain as tenants, according to a release from PTG. The remaining vacant space, which has been unused for more than four years, has been tabbed by the group for a music venue and wedding facility.

PTG has operated the Back Room in partnership with Colectivo for nearly eight years and pointed out in an email that, “With the unique successes [and] challenges of balancing the space as both a venue and cafe, it's a step forward to create fresh opportunities for everyone.” In its release, PTG laid out some of the ways it will address those challenges with help from the Kubala Washatko Architects, including:

  • Better artist accommodations
  • A back alley and garage that’ll make it easier to load in equipment
  • A more street-friendly façade
  • A digital ordering system that will allow patrons to order food from restaurants in the building and have it delivered to the venue

“The Back Room itself happened as a bit of a happy accident, when we and our friends at Colectivo identified the need to bring more smaller bands into the market and offer them a space that nurtured their growth potential,” Witt said in the release. “In the nearly eight years since we’ve opened The Back Room, we’ve discovered how much it’s helped grow the Milwaukee club scene and support similar venues like it.

“We’re excited to keep this momentum and vitality going with a space that we can curate to better meet the needs of our audience and community, and be part of the tremendous growth that Farwell Avenue is experiencing, including a new hotel.”

One of those growing bands, Milwaukee’s Scam Likely, weighed in on the announcement via the release as well, saying, “The Back Room @ Colectivo offered us the chance to show that we can put on a concert rather than just a gig, an important step towards legitimacy in the music industry for our band. There is something extraordinary about working with venues who have the willingness and eagerness to nurture local talent and treat us with the same importance as national acts on tour.

“Venues like The Back Room @ Colectivo have been quintessential to not only our growth, but the growth of the overall music scene in Milwaukee."