By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Three local partners plan to open a new downtown music venue in the Wausau Masonic Lodge, 130 First St., which has been home to the Wausau Area Masons since 1981.
The city’s public health and safety committee this week approved a reserve liquor license for Whitewater Music Hall, LLC, whose partners plan a January opening. Kelly Ballard and Leslie Patterson, who are sisters, appeared at Monday’s meeting and said they plan a light remodeling of the interior after the sale closes. The venue will feature live a variety of live music events and the partners will also operate a coffee bar inside the building during the day.
Ballard, who is originally from Austin, said her Texas roots draw her toward old country, Americana, bluegrass, rockabilly, blues-rock, and indie-rock.
“(We) also love folk, world music, jazz…open arms for anything sincere and creative,” Ballard said. “Wisconsin and the Midwest have so much to offer musically, and we envision being an outlet for the artists to be seen and for the community to have the chance to soak it all up.”
Ballard said the venue will host smaller, more local acts throughout the week and book larger acts for the weekend. To round out the experience, they will offer regional craft beer on tap, espresso based drinks, and food trucks.
Ballard’s husband, Brad Ballard, is also a partner in the project and a musician in his own right. The group is looking forward to providing a new space to add musical energy to the downtown area.
“We will invite any inspired musician or group with unique, original content to take the live music stage,” Ballard said. “Covers now and then are OK, but we really want to be an outlet for original singer-songwriter content.”
The sale is expected to close in October.
The Wausau Masonic Lodge features 19,500 square feet of space with an adjacent parking lot. The building is listed for sale at $599,000.
The new venue is expected to make downtown Wausau an even more vibrant music destination. Several downtown bars and restaurants already offer live music options, and local business owners say adding a concert space could draw more tourists and visitors to the downtown area.