When Marge VanGilder’s band played at Mixer last April, she had no idea she soon would be the proud owner of that very bar.
Mixer, a piano bar/lounge, opened in 2013 after many months of remodeling the building that once housed a consignment store and antique shop. The five guys who owned the bar struggled to attract a regular clientele, and as the partners dropped off one by one, they decided to pull the plug a little after a year in business.
VanGilder always had dreamed of owning a bar, and it turns out her wife, Jennifer Gilland VanGilder (the couple married in Chicago just last weekend), was down with her dream. Now the two are leasing the space where Mixer operated, at 1565 Bardstown Road, and will open The Planet Bar & Bistro this winter.
Marge retired from Humana after 26 years (in addition to her longtime gig with the Flaming Muumuus), and Jennifer is self-employed. The two are planning on making The Planet their full-time jobs.
The couple believes they can make it work by creating a welcoming bar with a focus on “the experience” and an addition of a kitchen that’ll serve light fare for patrons.
“We live in the Highlands, shop in the Highlands and play in the Highlands,” says Jennifer. “We want this bar to be an extension of our home.”
While Marge and Jennifer are openly gay, they do not want The Planet to be labeled a “gay bar,” which is similar to how Mixer was described. It’s a neighborhood bar that will focus on a quality service experience — from professional table service to craft cocktails to unique food preparation.
“We want people to feel better when they leave than when they came in,” Jennifer says. “I think the need is there, and Marge and I can’t wait to shake hands with old and new friends. We will be around most of the time to meet, greet and work out any problems that may arise.”
Fans of Showtime’s “The L Word” will recognize the bar’s name, as it played a major role in the lives of the characters in West Hollywood. It’s where they met up for coffee, where they gossiped over lunch and where they let their hair down at night with a few cocktails. So is that the kind of environment Marge and Jennifer are hoping to create?
“I don’t see it as quite the same one-stop-shop,” says Marge. “The Planet in ‘The L Word’ was a coffee shop, restaurant and nightclub — we certainly can’t offer all of that. But we’d like to go after the same vibe, where everybody knows everybody and you feel welcome as soon as you step foot in the door.”
Jennifer and Marge hope to open The Planet by New Year’s Eve, if not earlier. They’re making some changes to the space, including new colors, fixtures and carving out room for the kitchen. Unfortunately, the piano that was Mixer’s centerpiece is gone. “I hated to see it go — it was gorgeous. But it just took up too much space,” Marge says.
There will be live music throughout the week, and a back patio area will be ready by the spring.