The campus area is losing Madhatter after 30 years. The longtime student bar and hangout will close in May and, pending approval from the city, reopen as Danny’s Pub this fall.
Brano Kruger, general manager of the Red Rock Saloon, is buying the bar and turning it into an Irish pub.
“This type of high-energy, Irish-American crossover bar is something that is lacking in this area of downtown Madison,” says Kruger. Though both the Irish Pub, Brocach and the Coopers Tavern are just blocks away, Kruger says he is courting more of a campus clientele. “We are still going to be all about the Badgers.”
For two decades, Madhatter was a campus hotspot at its original location in the old University Square complex. After losing its lease when the mall was redeveloped in 2006, the bar struggled to find a new home until settling in at 328 W. Gorham St. two years later.
Kruger’s proposal calls for a complete remodel of the space and an expansion into the adjacent storefront once home to Silver Mine Subs. Unlike Madhatter, Danny’s Pub will serve food. A kitchen is being added to the building as part of the project. Shepherd’s pie and other Irish fare will be on the menu, as well as burgers and wraps.
As part of his goal to appeal to students, Kruger is also seeking an entertainment license to allow for DJs and musicians to play well into the night.
Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, a member of the Alcohol License Review Committee, supports the project because Kruger is an experienced operator with a clean record. Verveer says Madhatter, in recent years, ran into trouble with the city; in 2016 its alcohol license was suspended for 15 days for repeated violations involving serving minors and exceeding maximum occupancy. Nevertheless, it was a campus institution for several decades.
“Madhatter had a good run,” says Verveer. “It’s the end of an era.”