Michael Horne
The Roundup

New Home for Lord?

By - Mar 7th, 2005 12:00 pm
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Art dealer Michael H. Lord will be losing his building at 770-772 N. Milwaukee St., but it looks like he might be keeping his gallery – and the street part of his address.

Lord has been looking at the old Lou Fritzel building with owner Peter J. Kondos, who has always had a thing for art, anyway.

The vacant building is at 733 N. Milwaukee St., less than a block from the current location Lord is losing in receivership proceedings in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Receiver Douglas Mann told milwaukeeworld that the building is being sold to satisfy claims from Heritage Investment Co. amounting to about $900,000.

According to state records, Heritage is registered to Joseph M. Bernstein of 780 N. Water Street. Bernstein has also signed checks paying some of the Lord gallery’s bills.

Kondos, a colorful member of the Milwaukee legal and arts community, bought the building at 733 N. Milwaukee St. for $155,000 in February, 1991. The 5,878 sq. ft. structure is now assessed at $67,900, and sits on a 5,880 sq. ft. lot valued at $147,100, for a total assessment of $215,000.

Even the bargain-basement assessment is insufficient inducement for Mr. Kondos to fulfill his civic obligations: Property taxes dating to 2002 are delinquent, and now total $23,262.14.

Of that amount, $2,689.44 is interest and $1,060.63 is penalty.

Lord is no stranger to delinquencies. Over $1.4 million in claims have been filed against him, especially since Lord’s 20-day jail stay last year for stealing $174,999 from a great-aunt’s estate.

Among the more interesting recent claims against Lord is one from Chihuly, Ltd., which says Lord owes the firm $219,000. This likely dates from 2001 when glass artist Dale Chihuly’s sculptures were featured at the inaugural of the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

At the same time as the opening, Lord also featured a Chihuly exhibition at his gallery, selling to such individuals as Ray Allen and Donald Baumgartner, who owns at least five of the fragile works.

Lord also handled the donation of a giant Chihuly from the exhibition as a gift to the museum, where it remains on display in the Calatrava. It was purchased by Susan Ettinger in memory of her late son.

Chihuly, Ltd. has consistently refused comment on the Lord situation and its claim against the dealer.

Without question Lord has shown enormous pluck, and apparently intends to show us even more with the potential move to the Kondos building.

But it is not only the improvidential Kondos who appears allied with Lord this time. Also seen with the two at the site on Friday, March 11, was Anthony Palermo, the River Hills-based real estate mogul and owner of the 1000 N. Water St. building in Milwaukee and also of considerable valuable real estate in Los Angeles’ chic Rodeo Drive, which would be another perfect location for Lord to open a gallery. Lotsa money in Hollywood, don’t you know! Of course the people in Los Angeles have never heard of Michael Lord, and it would take a few transactions before he could develop a reputation there.

The Tavern Car is Back: Bar Owners Tell of Woes

It was a typical 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in Milwaukee at the Y-NOT II tavern, 706 E. Lyon St. Just the bartender, a half a dozen customers (well short of the surprisingly-small capacity of 100) and two uniformed police officers scrutinizing the bar’s licenses, signage and other legal impedimenta.

It is a scene being played out all over Milwaukee recently, and it has some people — like bar owners, bartenders and bar patrons — good and upset. And the alderman is getting an earful.

Yes folks, the Tavern Car is back after a seven year absence, and tavern owners are not happy about the nit-picky inspections and the hefty fines for minor infractions that they’ve been dealing with lately.

At Fitzgibbons Pub, 1127 N. Water St., police issued a three-digit fine for an expired fire hydrant inspection certificate. Dan Fitzgibbons said he was going to issue every customer a bucket of water until he could get the extinguisher recharged. A blind man awaits a cab at bartime during a snowstorm. It was after 2 a.m. and the cab still hadn’t come — but the police had, with citations abounding.

Such stories are now common around downtown and the east side. Tavern owners, a darkly suspicious lot by birthright, are wondering why they are being targeted by this zealous police enforcement. With overcapacity fines in excess of $30,000 reported, some tavern owners question if the move is a cynical one to raise money for a cash-strapped treasury.

“The mayor is ruining our business,” some said.

In an effort to create an open dialogue on the situation, Ald. Michael D’Amato, whose district is a particular focus of police efforts, held a meeting in the Common Council chambers at 3 p.m.on Thursday, March 10.

About 100 tavern owners and operators listened to presentations by the Milwaukee Police Department and the Department of Neighborhood Services, another agency with police powers over taverns which has also been conducting extensive inspections. (a third agency with tavern police powers, the Health Department, has not been particularly active in the new round of inspections, and was not represented at the meeting.)

Sgt. Thomas Ruege of the Fifth District invited the tavern owners to meet with him and to call him with their concerns at 1 414 935-7242. He is in charge of the tavern patrol for the district and works the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.

Many of the complaints of tavern operators were due to what they perceived as artificially-low occupancy limits, which, naturally, lead to overcapacity charges.

Department of Neighborhood Services personnel handed out copies of the “Occupancy Capacity Worksheet,” a simple twelve-page checklist used to determine the occupancy of a tavern – or any other building open to the public.

What do you know? — what with worksheets for floor area, egress, plumbing fixtures, stair width, door swing, floor elevation, projections, encroachments and sprinklers it turns out calculating occupancy is a pretty subjective thing.

“In fact, it’s written into the code that the inspector can use his judgment,” a Neighborhood Services representative said helpfully, adding, “you can always make a challenge to the Standards and Appeals Commission. Of course they haven’t heard any cases in the last seven years.”

(Alderman Mike Murphy, reached later, said it’s probably a good time to review the current occupancy formula, in place since 1989.)

The Milwaukee County Hospitality Association, a chapter of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, issued a statement calling for equal inspections of all businesses on their busiest days of the year, “example a Walmart at 5:00 a.m. opening on the Friday after Thanksgiving with their Mega sales,” the Association wrote in its chargedly ungrammatical way.

The tavern league also questions the practice of police officers issuing orders for code violations, when “they have not been trained in the fire code.”

Andrea Shafton, a veteran owner of taverns in both the downtown and east side neighborhoods, and an owner of tavern buildings, wondered why the cops couldn’t be a little nicer when they do their thing.

“We try hard to do the right thing, but we don’t get respect in return. When the police come in it’s embarrassing for us, and for our customers and it doesn’t have to be this way,” she said.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, tavern owners are wary of having too successful a day. Small taverns that would have the hardest time affording capacity fines plan to have doormen watching the customer count. Dan Fitzgibbons, with a capacity of 65, says he won’t spend the $700 on a free buffet as he ordinarily would have. If it means people won’t show up at his place, (or stick around) it’s better than, for God’s sake, exceeding capacity by even a soul.

Tony DePalma of the Y-NOT II has a more direct solution: “I’m not going to be open on St. Patrick’s Day,” he announced. “In thirty years in business I’ve been closed twice. My mother died – and I stayed open. My father died – and I stayed open. But I’m going to be closed St. Patrick’s Day. It’s what I call a customer service day, and I don’t want to turn away the customers I regularly service because the bar is filled to capacity. So I just won’t open.”

Among the attendees at the event were Michael Bondar and Paul Johnson of Wolski’s Tavern; Jim Linneman of Linneman’s Riverwest Inn; Mike Eitel, Leslie Montemurro and Scott Johnson of Trocadero, the Nomad and Hi-Hat; Carson Praefke of The Tasting Room, Julia LaLoggia of Red Room, Onopa, Barossa and other concerns; Steve Johnson of the Uptowner and Omar Gagale of Timbuktu among others too numerous to mention.

City Hands Ferry Cheap(er) Rent

The Lake Express Ferry is much in the news, with rosy pronouncements about its upcoming season filling the news columns with regularity. New premium service will be available, the ship will be equipped with computerized stabilizers at a cost of $400,000, and we are promised that the ship will run its entire season this year.

However, we have not heard much about the new amendment to the lease agreement with Lake Express, LLC., and the Port of Milwaukee for the 5 acres of lakefront property on the Port’s South Harbor Tract, the site of the ferry’s terminal and maintenance operations.

Lake Express has asked for a reduction in its rent due for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it had originally been planned that the facility would include a Terminal Building and a separate Maintenance Facility. Due to costs, the terminal was built with a maintenance garage area included. As a result, the planned 7,500 square foot terminal building and the 1,000 sq. ft. maintenance building became a 6,143 sq. ft. terminal with a 680 sq. ft. maintenance garage area, for a total of 6,823 sq. ft. In the original agreement, rent was based at $10 per sq. ft. per year for the terminal and at $3 per square foot for the maintenance facility, for the first ten years of the lease, for a total of $780,000 over that period.

But, due to the smaller size of the planned facility, the rent has been adjusted, although charged at the original rates, for a total expected over the first 10 years of $634,700 – a difference of $145,300. Fair enough.

However, there is another source of revenue that the city derives from the lease with the Lake Express Ferry, and that is known as “Wharfage Fees,” set as a per-passenger amount of 50 cents for the first five years, and rising to 75 cents per passenger in the second five year period of the contract.

Here is where things get interesting. According to the new agreement, and an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau Fiscal Review Section, “wharfage fees is based on an estimate of 100,000 passengers per year, a decrease of 50,000 passengers/, from the 150,000 passengers estimated in the original agreement/.”

Thus, the passenger revenue projection for the city has been changed by the stroke of a pen from an anticipated $937,500 in the first ten years of the lease to $625,000 over the ten year period. Overall, total revenue over the 10-year period will be $1,259,700 instead of the $1,717,500 originally planned. That is less than three quarters on the dollar from what we expected when we entered into the lease.

Is it possible that the Lake Express ferry folks gave us an artificially-inflated number when they sold the city on this project?

Milwaukeeworld.com contacted Lake Express, L.L.C. spokesperson Jeff Fleming, who said that he knew nothing of the lease amendments, and would have to study the matter. Fleming, of Zizzo Group, is much in the news with optimistic reports about the ferry. It is odd that his employers apparently kept him in the dark about this very dark news.

Bridge News

The Humboldt bridge(s), crossing both N. Commerce Street and the Milwaukee River, are going to be replaced. Originally, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the City had planned to rehabilitate the North Humboldt Avenue bridge over Commerce Street. After preliminary engineering activities, it has been decided to replace the bridge, using 80% state and or federal money for the purpose. The cost of the bridge over Commerce Street will be $1,035,000, of which the City’s share is $207,000. The immediate vicinity has seen a considerable amount of new construction lately, of a decidedly modernist bent. A whole new neighborhood has arisen on the west bank of the Milwaukee River on either side of the Humboldt bridges, and even in between the two spans. This land of railroad tracks, coal yards and simmering purgatories of a long-forsaken industrial hell is now a cubist assemblage of shapes, sizes and spaces. The site calls for a distinctive bridge suitable to the neighborhood.

This brings to mind the riparian adventures of Santiago Calatrava, famed designer of bridges and bridge-like buildings. When he was in town during the construction of the Milwaukee Art Museum addition, he and friends rowed up the river.

Calatrava was much taken by the vista he encountered just east of the Humboldt Bridge, and as the Milwaukee River goes, there is something to the locale, since the River bends twice within a few blocks and, in fact, runs due east-west at that place, a departure from its accustomed north-south current.

Calatrava decided a pedestrian bridge would be appropriate there, where it would lead from the Jewel-Osco to the middle of E. Kane Place, a residential street.

That plan never went anywhere, but it appears that now is the time for a crackerjack competition and a decent design to give the Humboldt site the bridge it deserves.

In other bridge news, the Brady Street pedestrian bridge is worth a look, it is much more graceful and accessible than its predecessor. The contractor is awaiting better weather to finish details of the approach and adjacent landscape. … As the weather gets better, you might want to take a trip across the Dam Bridge, which opened toward the end of the season last year. It is approached from Caesar’s Park on the south – by stairs. Many, many stairs. On the north side of the dam, the bridge connects to new city bike trails on the west bank of the river. Finally, our favorite all-time public works project, the Holton Marsupial Bridge is dramatically transforming N. Commerce Street where it flies above the street suspended beneath the girders of the mighty Holton Viaduct. On the east side, the bridge is also taking off, which will lead to an eventual connection over the Milwaukee River.

Brown Bottle to Reopen

Dean Cannestra, owner of Palermo Villa Restaurant and Nessun Dorma has taken a real big jump in his restaurant empire with the planned opening of Liviamo – “a bar and restaurant with an Italian twist,” as he puts it – in the fabled and long-shuttered Brown Bottle, once one of the most recognized beer halls in the country.

He signed the deal to rent the place, located in Schlitz Park last week, and plans to open in July, after significant changes, at least in the décor.

The Brown Bottle was the place you would go after the end of your tour of the Schlitz Brewery. During the ‘40’s and ‘50’s many of the nation’s most popular radio entertainers broadcast from the elegant hall. It operated as a bar during the ‘90’s, but was never a particular success, in part because its neighborhood had not matured and also because the dreaded Park East Freeway created an unwelcome barrier between it and downtown.

Cannestra says he’s still overwhelmed with the elegant space, designed with the same restrained good taste that characterized the second and third generations of the Uihlein family. There is an abundance of wood, Colnik light fixtures, and the partitions in the bathrooms are specimen slabs of rare marbles; the doors are louvered and wood.

Cannestra says he will retain these details.

Marsupial Bridge to Span Brewery, New Development?

As noted elsewhere in this report, the Lunda construction company of Black River Falls is well underway in the challenging task of hanging a bridge under the Holton Viaduct. Just upstream of the bridge, between N. Commerce Street and the River, is a multi-acre vacant property. It is owned by The Brewery Works, Inc., which is affiliated with local developer Gary Grunau.

Ald. Mike D’Amato has been going around telling important people that Grunau is planning to develop the property into residential units. One of the components of the development would be a link to the Holton Marsupial Bridge.

Another related plan would be to also link the Lakefront Brewery, immediately to the south of the bridge, to the Marsupial structure, creating a sort of a plaza, and direct access to the popular tourist attraction. D’Amato and Grunau did not return a request for information, and it probably isn’t worth the time to bother 6th district alderman Mike McGee about development in his district, since he has so many other things on his plate (“so many other heads on his platter”) right now.

The Brewery Works property consists of 72,135 square feet of land valued at $252,500, or about $3.50 per square foot. The current tax on the property is $6,633.09, which is being paid on the installment plan.

Center Street Renewal

Erik Peterson, the owner of the fabled Krueger Bakery building at the southeast corner of N. Holton St. and E. Center St. said he is prepared to offer very reasonable terms to lease out the retail space there. He says that Omar Gagale has been having great success with the recently-opened Timbuktu and is looking for another location in the area. The Mad Planet, which could use a façade restoration is also jamming in the neighborhood, as are Fuel, Onopa Brewing Co., and a number of other spots in the revivifying area.

Fun on the #10

Until June N. Humboldt Avenue is closed from the intersection of N. Water St. and E. Kane Place all the way to E. Brady Street, a hilly four blocks. New sewer upgrades are the reason, in the area that has seen significant development lately. The street closure is an especially problematic one, since the #10 bus courses through the neighborhood on this thoroughfare. The problem is, there is really no detourable route through the neighborhood where the streets don’t follow the usual Milwaukee grid, and barely connect with each other. So, for now, or until the transit geniuses come up with another route, the #10 bus will diverge from its route at E. North Avenue, where it will travel on N. Holton Street, crossing the Holton Viaduct, and heading along N. Van Buren St. until it gets to E. Pleasant St., where it will finally rejoin its route at N. Humboldt Ave. That is quite a detour.

A Peek at Farwell

N. Farwell Avenue has been busy. The new retail building at the northeast corner of N. Farwell Ave. and E. Irving Pl. has had its exterior walls constructed. A storefront and a roof are underway. … Brewed Grounds, a Fair-Trade coffee collective has opened just up the street. … Eddy’s, the Chinese restaurant next to Comet Café has closed, and Comet is well underway with its expansion plans for the active corner. …Elsewhere, since a number of you asked, Savoy Restaurant remains open for luncheon and dinner in the Shorecrest Hotel, despite the tragic death of Sally Papia. …

On Brady Street

The Emperor of China removed an old, and not particularly attractive sign from the building. … A bistro is planned for the former Konohana Japanese restaurant. All of the old sushi stuff has been torn out. … Across the street, demolition is underway of the fire-damaged areas of Club 628. You can see right through to the basement. … The Riverwest Currents newspaper held its 3rd anniversary party February 26th at the Brady Street Pharmacy theater space. Jim Searles received some ink in Vital magazine for his efforts to offer performance space at no charge to residents. On a recent weekend afternoon, two girls from the neighborhood drank milkshakes, ate popcorn and watched a teen drama broadcast on the big screen. They were having the time of their lives. … Jim Boland, whose Art Smart’s Dart Mart celebrates 20 years on Brady Street this year, says that he is planning to offer some of his diverse product line on Ebay. He has done business on the internet for some years from his own website, www.jugglingsupplies.com, but observes that sales there are dependent on buyers pretty much stumbling upon the site. Ebay will offer links to active consumers, he figures. It would be interesting to know if other Brady Street merchants have found Ebay a good means to provide added income. … An empty, but rehabilitated house for sale in the 1800 block of N. Arlington Pl. was tagged recently, as was the approach to the Holton viaduct. … At last parts of the Pfister and Vogel tannery are disappearing from our “site.” A crummy garage building on Water Street just across from O’Brady’s was demolished in a day recently. … Sitework continues at the Gallun Tannery remnants. What a large property it is. … Over on the 1200 block of E. Kane Place, a little rear cottage was bulldozed from a property where the front house had long disappeared. Before you knew it, a foundation had been dug, block laid and a whole new house frame, shipped in in pieces, had taken shape.

Capacity Days

The Milwaukee Police Department has aggressively targeted tavern capacity laws recently, and one place on Brady Street is facing a five-figure fine for having too many people in the bar. Tavern capacity is determined by square footage, number of exits and number of restrooms. The lower east side neighborhood has some mighty low tavern capacities which can easily be exceeded, so the tavern operators are quite concerned these days. So much so that Wolski’s has cancelled its annual St. Patrick’s pub crawl, held for the last couple of decades, out of a concern that if a bunch of revelers show up at one time, a participating tavern could be easy pickings for police enforcement of occupancy limits.

(Updated March 11)

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