Room for two

Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill adds event venue


Story by Tyler Henderson, Multimedia Editor

The family-owned business has been run by the Girolamos since 2003.
The Girolamo family has owned the business since 2003.

Laura Girolamo is proud of the new space next door to her family’s business. With high ceilings and round tables scattered about, the room is perfect for comfort and socialization. A  wood-paneled back bar with hanging wine glasses, high-end liquor and soft lighting create a classy look ideal for a wedding shower or Christmas party. The sideBAR on Grand is exactly what the Girolamos needed, Laura Girolamo said.

Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill opened the doors to their reservation-only event room in June of this year. The sideBAR on Grand, 115 W. Grand Ave., has been booked nearly every weekend since its opening for wedding receptions, retirement parties, business events, family reunions and more, according to Laura Girolamo, the bar manager as well as the daughter of owners Jim and Cindy Girolamo.

Its relation to Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill isn’t noticeable from the outside, but once inside for an event, patrons can see the same bartenders and members of the Girolamo family who have put a face to the Court’n House name since 2003.

Girolamo’s Court’n House

Aptly named after its location near the Eau Claire County Court House, the bar has been around since the early 1950s, according to Laura Girolamo. She says she can’t speak to much before the family took over in 2003. “People have told us that it’s been around for a long time,” she said  “But we don’t know much. We just know what we’ve heard from long-time customers.” She also said that the bar hadn’t been serving food for too long before the Girolamos purchased the establishment.

The  Girolamo family has owned the business since 2003.

Jim and Cindy Girolamo took over after trading in a life of farming for a career in the food service industry.

“We were sick of working so hard. We just wanted a change,” Laura Girolamo said. Jim Girolamo was no stranger to running a bar, having been the owner of one on Water Street called Girolamo’s University Tap, known as the GUT, in the 1970s. That building is now the Pioneer Tavern.

“(Jim) said that if another bar went up for sale, he would love to purchase it,” Laura Girolamo said. “The Court’n House came up for sale, so we went and bought that.”

Her sisters Whitney Girolamo and Nettie Girolamo also help on a semi-regular basis, rounding out the family business.

The bar and grill has been a popular spot over the years thanks to daily specials, including Thursday night buy-one-get-one-free burgers and their Friday night fish fry. Wisconsinites are also drawn to the tapped beer selection offering double-digit options.

The need for a larger space for events was evident, as Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill has grown into the popular watering hole that it is today. That’s how the concept of the new room was born.

The sideBAR

Without a space next door available, Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill had no way to physically expand their growing business.

“We’ve wanted to do this for the last three or four years,” Laura Girolamo said. “But the building wasn’t available to purchase.”

The sideBAR on Grand and Girolamo's Court'n House Bar and Grill stand side-by-side on the historic strip of W. Grand Avenue.
The sideBAR on Grand and Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill stand side-by-side on the historic strip of West Grand Avenue.

The space was formerly a bridal store called Bella Nozze, and prior to that was a consignment dress shop called Sandy’s Attic. After the Girolamos approved the plans and purchased the building two years ago, it still wasn’t ready to be a bar right away, Laura Girolamo said. Construction of the building took nearly a year to complete.

Their patience paid off when they opened the doors to the new venue four months ago.

The sideBAR on Grand and Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill stand side-by-side on the historic strip of West Grand Avenue.

Bartender Sierra Neeb called it “the nicest bar in Eau Claire right now,” even though it’s only open for events.

“It can be used for  different, custom-made events,” she said. “Customers can choose what they want to pay.”

It also contains a convenient kitchen in the back to prepare fresh appetizers and meals without having to move back-and-forth between the restaurant and the event space.

Customers can book the room through Girolamo’s Court’n House Bar and Grill because the Girolamo family doesn’t want The sideBAR on Grand to be seen as an entity separate from the long-standing establishment.

“(The) sideBAR is just a room,” Laura Girolamo said. “Everything still runs through the Court’n House.”

Since opening in June, Laura Girolamo says the bar has grown in notoriety through word of mouth, with no issues even with the relative lack of information available online.

“It’s really picking up,” she said about her new business endeavor. “The word’s been getting out there.”