By Kylie Balk-Yaatenen - September 14th 2023



 Janesville’s newest speakeasy-themed mocktail bar will step visitors back in time to the roaring 20’s. And, in a throwback to the jazz era, it will require a password to be admitted.

The Green Door opens Friday, Sept.15, nestled into a corner of 608 Vintage, an antique store at 34 S. Main St., in Janesville.

608 Vintage owner Jeff Gustin and his business partner, Mindy Pennycook, characterized Friday and Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., as a soft launch. A grand opening is expected to be held sometime in October.

Gustin and Pennycook hope to whisk customers off to a world of vintage jazz music, mystery and alcohol-free drinks.

They have decorated the full bar to give a 1920’s feel, with art-deco decals and mood lighting.

Pennycook said the initial idea was to open in the basement of the store, for a hidden mystery feel, but the space wouldn’t have been accessible to everyone.

There will be passwords that change each night to lend an authentic speakeasy feel. Pennycook said the passwords will be good for a free drink or for a coupon to use at 608 Vintage.

Pennycook said she did, at one point, think about opening a bar in the store where alcohol would be served but reconsidered based on the cost of a liquor license.

Gustin said they also looked at bigger cities like Madison and Milwaukee where there is a mocktail following. He said one study he came across predicted the number of non-alcoholic bars could grow 30 to 50% in the next five years in Wisconsin.

“It’s definitely an emerging market,” he said.

The Green Door’s first Facebook post caught the eye of 50,000 people.

Pennycook said it will appeal to people who don’t drink, for an array of possible reasons. She said she stopped drinking a couple years ago because alcohol put her to sleep.

Everything in the bar is hand built. Gustin built the bar and a decal vendor designed the decals on the front of it. Pennycook built the shelves. Gustin said that the doors of the drink cabinet are possibly the original business doors from the 1800s.

Not just fruit juice

Pennycook said non-alcoholic spirits mimic the flavor profiles found in gin, rum, and tequila.

“We’ve been experimenting since we came up with this idea,” she said. “It’s been a lot of trial and error,” with the final outcome “not just fruit juice or Hawaiian Punch.”

Gustin said the menu includes energy drinks, and some drinks designed to help you relax.

“There’s a couple of hemp infused spirits that we’re going to offer like CBD and THC,” he said. “It gives just a real mild buzz but without the alcohol.”

Gustin said other than standard local health regulations, there is no special licensing required in Janesville to open a mocktail bar. However, anything that contains hemp must adhere to a legal limit for THC infused products.

Hemp is legally distinguished from marijuana, defined as having a THC level below 0.3%.

Pennycook said some drinks will have vanilla extract in them, which has alcohol in it, but below the legal limit for it to be considered alcoholic. Any drink with an 0.5% alcohol concentration, and lower, is considered non alcoholic.

“Some of our beers and other drinks are 0.5% But they’re still considered non-alcoholic because it’s such a negligible amount,” Gustin said.

Pennycook said ingredient lists will be available.

Future plans

Pennycook said she’s been brainstorming ways to branch out.

“I’ve been thinking about talking to other business owners and giving them the secret password,” she said. “I mean, back then it was all about the word on the street; I kind of want to incorporate that.”

She said they are also looking into building a stage and possibly offer local jazz musicians to play at the bar.

Murder Mystery

Pennycook said sometime in October she hopes to host a Murder Mystery night with actors and patrons participating.

She said their initial Facebook post drew a lot of positive feedback and said she also heard back from counselors at different rehab facilities that they might refer some of their clients to have the “social experience of a bar without the booze.”

Elaina Szyjewski, managing director of Downtown Janesville Inc., said the organization is very excited to see what Gustin and Pennycook do with the bar.

“We are always thrilled when a business brings something new for the community and visitors to experience,” she said. “The Green Door is a welcomed addition to downtown that will provide a fun social atmosphere within 608 Vintage. We’re looking forward to seeing what kind of fun mocktail concoctions they come up with.”

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