Gastropub of Janesville
Story and Interview by Teresa Nguyen
We put in all new flooring, a new bar, all new plumbing and electricals, really everything. We were going for an urban/modern feel and that’s exactly what we got! ~ Matthew Kealy
A Unique Downtown Experience
Average pubs are a dime a dozen, dotting downtown streets in cities all across America. But, here in the heart of Janesville’s beautiful and historical downtown area, we are lucky to have our very own unique gastropub, one that stands a bar above the rest! (Yes, I just did that). The building sits at a prime location on the corner of East Milwaukee Street and Main.
Near the very end of a decade that saw a complete and positive turnaround in downtown Janesville’s business district, drafthouse brought us that perfect combo of craft beers and unique drinks plus quality cuisine all in a classy, yet unassuming and welcoming atmosphere.
As new cafes, dining experiences, the Town Square and even a new hotel popped up in the heart of our city, businessman Matthew Kealy began creating a fine place for the after-work happy hour, a fun girls’ night out or that romantic dinner you’ve been waiting for. It’s a great place to gather with friends, family and to meet new people!
With a cool bar, lots of seating space and even a comfortable lounge, drafthouse serves up mouthwatering food that leaves you wanting more. Couple that with a wide range of enticing drinks and we've got a winner!
The beautiful drafthouse - photo from the drafthouse website
After extensive interior remodeling, drafthouse (spelled with a lower case ‘d’), located at 101 E. Milwaukee Street, finally opened on November 1st, 2019!
Interview with drafthouse Owner Matthew Kealy
We essentially removed everything besides the kitchen wall. We removed the drop ceiling and exposed the open ceiling concept. The floor was still the old bank floor they had from the 70s. The previous bar was actually the old teller line from the 70s or 80s.
The drafthouse lounge - photo from the drafthouse website
We put in all new flooring, a new bar, all new plumbing and electricals, really everything. We were going for an urban/modern feel and that’s exactly what we got!
The Pandemic and Kealy's Cafe
(Matthew also owned Kealy’s Café, which will close at the end of this week due to the pandemic. He shared a few words about that before we continued our interview on the drafthouse.)
At Kealy’s Café, we were so slow, we were down to seven employees. Sales were down 45 – 50% and there were upgrades needed. One either has to make a huge investment to go full force or you bow out gracefully and I think that just makes more sense right now. It’s tough to make that call.
Some people suggested we do curbside at Kealy’s.
But the grandparents don’t want go there to pick up eggs and bacon. Their generation still cooks at home. They go there for the social aspects and to get out of the house.
Matthew had this to say on the Kealy’s Café facbook page:
"First, thank you to the hundreds of employees who have worked on my team over the last 17 years. Without your hard work we would have never made it this far. Second, thank you to Jeff and Tina, who believed in me as a young man when I started doing dishes for them almost 24 years ago. You both taught me so much and I am forever thankful. Third, thank you to our tens of thousands of diners who we have served over the decades. Your support and patronage are truly amazing. Finally, my wife Hannah and family. You have been by my side every step of the way and have always been there for support. I am so fortunate to have you all in my life." ~ Matthew Kealy
The Pandemic and drafthouse
Down at drafthouse, we bought some giant heaters for our patio in the fall of 2020. That way, if people feel more comfortable eating outdoors, we turn the heaters on for them. We were busy with diners out on the patio even through December!
As far as this pandemic goes, we’ve always dealt with sanitation processes, and I've dealt with the public and risks of safety throughout my entire career. We use safety protocols regularly, anyway, so it was just a matter of getting through this one big hiccup, something to figure out.
Going back to work for us was a reality and a given. It’s something we just had to do!
We have both curbside pick-up and indoor dining, as well as patio dining, when the patio reopens in spring. We also have delivery through EatStreet, our delivery partner.
Lunch/Dinner/Happy Hour & Weekend Brunch
Our kitchen is open 10:30 - 10 on Monday through Fridays. We serve a brunch from 9 - 1 on Saturdays and Sundays, then the regular menu from 1 - 10. We have 24 draft lines and over 85 whiskies on the menu and a varied wine list.
Currently, “Wine & Dine Wednesdays” feature a deal - with any food purchase enjoy 1/2 off bottles of wine. Wine corking is also available and 50% off wine is also offered with carry-out.
The lounge is a cozy area of the bar with couches and chairs, but currently has tables and chairs while the patio is closed. As soon as we get the patio opened, we’ll have the lounge furniture put back in and that area will be opened up on April 1st!
Visit the drafthouse Facebook page for the latest updates and posts: drafthouse
Order online for delivery or call for curbside take out. Menu: