News and Updates

March 08, 2024 News

Milwaukee venues begin arranging bookings for RNC groups

McGillycuddy's Bar and Grill on downtown Milwaukee’s Water Street is the first venue booked through the official Republican National Convention venue guide — and venue bookings are likely to pick up in April as convention visitors are assigned to hotel rooms.

That was the word Thursday from Elise Dickens, the convention CEO, as she participated in a discussion at Marquette University Law School.

McGillycuddy's has, indeed, booked two groups for the July convention, Drew Deuster, a partner in the bar’s owner Wild Planet Hospitality Group, said in an interview after Dickens’ remarks. He said his company’s Red Rock Saloon, which also is on Water Street, arranged its first RNC booking last week before McGillycuddy's was booked.

So far, Red Rock has been booked by four groups, Deuster said. Red Rock, 1225 N. Water St., has a capacity of 400, and McGillycuddy's, at 1135 N. Water St., has a capacity of 330, he said.

Deuster said he wouldn’t identify the groups that booked his company’s spaces due to non-disclosure agreements. He said they include state Republican Party delegations.

Both McGillycuddy's and Red Rock are among the 155 venues in the official RNC venue guide.

RNC convention groups looking to host events can request their preferred venue from the guide and, if the Republican National Committee’s Committee on Arrangements team approves the request, the committee connects groups with the venue to proceed with booking, according to the website

The Committee on Arrangements has partnered with Milwaukee-area venues to provide an assortment of event options for convention visitors, according to the website. Venues on the list represent a range of size and scopes “from traditional Wisconsin supper clubs to renowned museums to historic theaters,” the website states.

Dickens said those venues will start hearing from more prospects in the coming weeks, especially after the Committee on Arrangements in April assigns state delegations and other guests to hotel rooms in southeast Wisconsin and Madison. She predicted “a snowball of booking venues” after that.

The committee recently finalized the list of 111 official convention hotels and is determining which hotels will host which delegations and other visitors, Dickens said.

“Once they know where they’re going to be and they start getting further into their planning process, then they can say ‘OK, I’m out in Kenosha — maybe I want to look at some services out in Kenosha,’” Dickens said in an interview after the luncheon at Marquette. “That’s when we will send them the vendor connection portal so they can search by industry and things in their area they want to take advantage of.”

The vendor connection portal is distinct from the RNC venue guide and consists of a much larger group of about 2,000 businesses registered with the RNC host committee. The host committee website said it will use the portal for dispensing information on requests for proposals and for communicating directly with vendors about upcoming opportunities.

While venue bookings seem to be quieter at this point with the RNC than they were four years ago for the ill-fated Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Deuster said the RNC committees have done a good job of sending appropriate-sized groups to his venues.

“We still have plenty of time to get things sorted out,” he said. Dickens and host committee chief operating officer Alison Prange participated Thursday in the “Get to Know” series at Marquette University Law School with Derek Mosley, director of the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.