The Cardinal Baran iconic Madison nightclub from the 1970s to the 2010s, has reopened at 418 E. Wilson St. with new owners and a strong dose of nostalgia.
Five business partners, each in equal shares, have spent the past year reviving one of their favorite places to listen to music, dance, and have deep conversations.
The new Cardinal will quietly open on May 23rd and will remain in a soft-opening phase until the third week of June, after which a grand opening and full-scale regular music start is scheduled.
“I almost cried thinking about what this week was like. It was more than we expected,” said Alison Lentz, one of the partners in the business. “I knew people would come back. But I didn’t know how much warmth they would really bring.”
What New Owners Called Cardinal Bar “3.0” A 2022 Wisconsin Journal article highlighting their plans, which captures the nostalgia of many eras in Cardinal history. Tile and glasswork from earlier iterations of the building, prints referencing the 1970s, and an Art Nouveau style throughout the design.
Cardinal regulars now have a late-night bar menu that’s offered all the way until closing. Business partner Anthony Linear spearheads tapas-style late-night plates (chicken wings, kebabs, empanadas, nachos, relish trays), served until midnight most nights and bar time Thursday through Saturday.
For the live band, there is a new Ed Linville-designed stage where the back bar used to be, surrounded by mirrors and triangular accents. The walls are freshly painted. All the brass coat hooks are polished to a bright shine, and his one of the gender-neutral restrooms has new, gorgeous vintage wallpaper.
The main bar’s colorful floor tiles are still intact, and stained glass windows flourish. Throughout the renewed Cardinal Bar, you’ll find references to the bar’s history, big and small.
“We wanted to breathe new life into this place,” said Lenz. “This building has an energy of its own. We wanted to bring it closer to[early 2020].th century) period as much as possible, don’t try to change it, just revive it. “
Basement of a historic hotel
The Cardinal Bar is located on the ground floor of the historic Cardinal Hotel, built in 1908 and opened in 1912 to serve travelers from the nearby rail depot. Located on East He Wilson Street, the building is located in Madison’s First Settlement District just east of the Capitol Building and adjoins the district established in 1837.
The building was designed by local architect and German immigrant Ferdinand Kronenberg.
“The Cardinal Hotel, as it was known at the time, had a lobby, a restaurant, 60 hotel rooms, and an underground barbershop that now serves as a sales office,” Gail Woland, Wisconsin, 2008. I am writing in a journal article. “Apart from the lack of spitting,” she writes, the barroom has changed little in the decades since.
The hotel was beginning to decay in 1974 when Ricardo Gonzalez rented the bar space and turned it into a gay-friendly tavern that blended “salsa, sexiness and social conscience” (Cap Times, 1993). (according to Doug Moe’s column in ). In 1982, the Cardinal Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1985, a fire closed the bar for eight months.
Cuban immigrant and activist Gonzalez made the Cardinal Bar famous not only for progressive politics, but also for dance and Latin jazz.in the meantime Gonzalez became the first openly gay Latino man elected to political office in the United States (He was the city’s alder), the cardinal hosted jazz jams and political fundraiser, followed by punk nights and “leather and lace” themed parties.
According to the Cap Times archives, former mayor Paul Soglin was a regular at “R&B and wild disco” in the 1970s and was also a DJ.
Lentz, the club’s current music booker, has plans to revive the music. Enjoy jazz on Tuesdays and electronic nights on Wednesdays. Tony Castañeda’s Latin Jazz Band was a resident of the Cardinal for many years. They will be back for happy hour on Thursdays. (Happy hour is from 5pm to 7pm on weekdays except Mondays when the bar is closed.)
Also on Thursday, Cardinal will feature funk and disco. Friday will be “a mix of jazz, Latin jazz and blues,” Lentz said. A fetish night, or “leather and lace” night, is planned for the third Friday of each month, with world music on Saturdays and jam sessions on Sundays.
By 2003, Gonzalez had sold Cardinal to two of his then-employees and a third partner. After the bar closed in 2009, he became the owner again and ran it for eight more years.
The Cardinal closed again in January 2017, operating as the football-themed Nomad World pub for two and a half years. By the time Lenz, Rinia and his three other partners, Carrie Tobias, Lenz’s younger brother Dustin Lenz and Andrew Hansen got together, the bar was lovingly ready to be restored.
“We all love this place so much,” Lenz said. Over the past year, when construction was postponed for whatever reason, we worked to revitalize the bar and find balance.
“It took a really long time to restore,” she said. “Sanding and staining and polishing and painting… 115 year old buildings. You can’t leave these buildings alone. They need love.”
I get on an airplane
Cardinal Bar 2023 We aim to gently update the facilities we love. There’s also a familiar face at the bar, with Manhattans and Caipirinhas (Cuban classics) on the menu, as well as his new non-alcoholic cocktails. Music is back, but shows may start earlier.
Lenz is looking forward to The Cardinal Bar becoming home to the jazz revival that tends to make its way through Madison. She wants her music to feel approachable and program in conjunction with other venues such as Café CODA and North Street Cabaret.
“Jazz needs help on that front,” Lentz said. “Jazz is supposed to be boring elevator music, but jazz is so much more. is the essence of jazz and a big part of what we do here.”
Cardinal Associates still owns the building, and Gonzalez is part of that group. Lenz declined to say how much the update would cost, but Gonzalez said he was delighted with the update. New Cardinal He said when the bar opened, “We kind of took over the torch.”
“It was pretty emotional,” Lenz said. “He’s happy. That night he looked at me at this end of the bar and said, ‘I’m the luckiest man alive.’ You did it. ’ I was barking.
“I think he’s feeling good[going on]without him. He’s flying in the right direction.”