Public House 22

Liz and Josh Swanson have been working several months to transform the small building at 18 E. 21st St. into a trendy bar with a comfortable, welcoming feel where patrons can linger, chat and maybe conduct some business.

KEARNEY — Liz Swanson put a lot of herself into the downtown bar she plans to open in October.

As she and her husband, Josh, complete their extensive remodeling of the one-time storage building for Nelson’s Furniture, she hopes people embrace Public House 22 as a welcoming place to relax, linger, enjoy a liquid libation and maybe talk a little business.

“It’s a place that I always wanted,” Liz said this week while running down the history of the quaint little building at 18 E. 21st St.

Built in 1884, the structure has housed various businesses, among them a barber shop and, earlier in its history, a bar. Liz and Josh said an antique liquor bottle emerged during some work in the basement.

“If anyone can tell me the name of the bar that was here, I would be interested,” Liz said.

The antique bottle isn’t the only thing that emerged as Josh and Liz stripped away plaster and a suspended ceiling to reveal character-rich elements of the building in its original condition.

Handsome red brick walls and a distinctive tin ceiling are among the sentimental eye-pleasers inside Public House 22. The original organic look contrasts nicely with modern elements Liz brought together in a decorating scheme she’s labeled “earth-based modernism with classic integrity.”

Among the modern elements are quartz bar and table tops, custom metal work behind the bar, upholstered bar stools and lots of ceramic tile. She also has installed USB ports and electrical outlets along the bar and at every table.

The establishment will seat 30, she said.

Sunlight streams in through modern, east-facing windows, and original stained glass panels allow light in from the south. After dark, the modern LED lighting will transform the place into a trendy setting as the tin ceiling and red brick walls melt in the darkness and the modern elements come into their own.

Those modern elements include an oak hardwood floor under foot and differing shades of silvery gray coating the walls.

“There isn’t anything like this in Kearney,” Liz said.

Josh said he put his business, Arrowhead Carpentry and Remodeling, on hold for a few months so he and Liz could work together on the bar. Josh normally works alone, so it took time to get used to working with his wife, he said. Otherwise, he said he’s been impressed with Liz’s decorating decisions.

“She’s made some fantastic choices,” he said.

Liz has been sharing sneak peaks of the interior with Facebook friends, but she’s not ready to release the drink and cocktail menu. Public House 22 won’t serve food, but patrons will be welcome to bring their own, as they are at several other new establishments.

Liz said she is excited that Public House 22 will be a part of the re-emergence of downtown Kearney. She said one of her goals is to contribute to the new entertainment offerings by encouraging patrons to experiencing Downtown Kearney: The Bricks. “I want to cross-promote the other great bars and nightlife here.”

While the past name of the bar at 18 E. 21st St. remains a mystery, for a few weeks during their remodeling, Liz created a bit of a mystery herself while attempting to misdirect speculation about what she intended to make of her property.

Liz’s friend, Gina Lieb, owner of Kearney Wine and Dine, painted an assortment of zoo animals on large sheets of paper. Liz hung the animal paintings in the front windows and, when asked about her plans for the building, she said it would be a petting zoo.

“I’m a jokester,” she said. “I didn’t want them to know it was going to be a bar.”

She said it surprised her that so many people believed she was planning a petting zoo.

This week she was going to take down part of the animal mural because some of the signage for the bar was going to be added to a front window.

According to Liz, the name “Public House 22” comes from the original label for such establishments. Over time, “public house” morphed into “pub.” She said a female proprietor was called the “land lady.”

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