The Back Room at Colectivo Is Closing

Pabst Theater Group is shutting it down and replacing it with a new venue a few blocks over.

The Back Room at Colectivo, the intimate East Side concert venue operated by The Pabst Theater Group, will shut down by the end of the year and be replaced by a new space a few blocks away.  

The Pabst Theater Group, one of Milwaukee’s top independent live music promoters, agreed to purchase a commercial building at 1818 N. Farwell Avenue where it will open the new music venue and wedding facility in a portion of the property that has been vacant for several years. The new space will open in 2024.  

The Pabst Theater Group opened the 300-person capacity Back Room at 2211 N. Prospect Ave. in 2015. Emmitt James, Alejandro Escovedo, The Samples and Kiss the Tiger are among the bands set to perform shows at The Back Room in the coming weeks.



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“We’re extremely appreciative of the long and productive relationship we’ve had with Colectivo Coffee, partnering with them in various capacities for over 20 years,” Pabst Theater Group President and CEO Gary Witt said. “The Back Room itself happened as a bit of a happy accident, when we and our friends at Colectivo identified the need to bring more smaller bands into the market and offer them a space that nurtured their growth potential. In the nearly eight years since we’ve opened The Back Room, we’ve discovered how much it’s helped grow the Milwaukee club scene and support similar venues like it. We’re excited to keep this momentum and vitality going with a space that we can curate to better meet the needs of our audience and community and be part of the tremendous growth that Farwell Avenue is experiencing, including a new hotel.” 

The building that will house the new concert space is currently home to a trio of restaurants – Ethiopian Cottage, Chopstix and a Domino’s location – that will remain as tenants. The property’s vacant space that will be transformed into a the venue has remained empty for more than four years. The building’s owner, New Land Development of Milwaukee, had at one time planned to use the space for weddings and other events, although that plan never came to fruition. 

The new venue will include better artist accommodations similar to other Pabst Theater Group backstage experiences, with a special back alley and garage for loading in equipment for shows. Working with The Kubala Washatko Architects, a Cedarburg architecture and urban design firm, the Pabst Theater Group also plans to improve the building’s façade. Pabst Theater Group expects to enable show patrons to order food digitally from the restaurants in the building that would be delivered to them at the venue. 

Like the Pabst Theater Group’s other venues, including The Back Room, the new venue will welcome audiences of all ages.  

“The Back Room at Colectivo offered us the chance to show that we can put on a concert rather than just a gig, an important step towards legitimacy in the music industry for our band,” members of Milwaukee band Scam Likely said in statement. “There is something extraordinary about working with venues who have the willingness and eagerness to nurture local talent and treat us with the same importance as national acts on tour. Venues like The Back Room at Colectivo have been quintessential to not only our growth, but the growth of the overall music scene in Milwaukee.”  

The concert programming at The Back Room at Colectivo currently serves as a critical developmental ladder for local musicians and internationally touring artists, such as Lovejoy and Mitski, who have gone on to sell out much larger venues like the Riverside Theater and Miller High Life Theatre. 

The new, highly customizable venue will allow the Pabst Theater Group to continue to serve this need while having the flexibility to make investments that will improve the audience and artist experience. 



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.