He Said, She Said at Frank’s Power Plant

Owner, former manager disagree on what happened, but the bar is still open.

By - Oct 18th, 2018 03:56 pm
Frank's Power Plant at 2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Frank’s Power Plant at 2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

On October 16th, news broke that Frank’s Power Plant tavern (2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) was closed. However, the bar’s owner refutes those claims.

“The bar is not closed,” says Frank Wickert, owner of Frank’s Power Plant. “The bar has not been sold. I am the owner, and those are the facts.”

While the bar has been on the market for eight months, Wickert has not accepted any offers from potential buyers. Wickert says the bar’s manager, Rebecca Cottreau, left and fired the entire staff without his knowledge, also shutting down all of the bar’s social media accounts.

But Cottreau, who has served as the bar’s general manager for 15 years, tells a different story. She says she was taken off guard by events leading up to the 16th. Her team believed the bar was no longer for sale because Wickert, according to Cottreau, had previously declined an offer from one of Cottreau’s team members, Kevin Pappas.

Additionally, Cottreau says that while filling out paperwork at City Hall last week, a City Hall employee asked her if she was “the applicant for new ownership of the tavern Frank’s Power Plant,” also naming the applicant in the process. “You can imagine my surprise so I asked Frank if the bar was in fact sold and he said ‘NO,'” says Cottreau.

Cottreau says she overheard Wickert saying “We close on the 16th,” while speaking on the phone, taking that to mean the bar was closing on the 16th. After receiving a tip that the bar was close to being sold, Pappas again approached Wickert about buying the bar on October 11. “He said that if I could have the money by Monday we could talk,” says Pappas. “Obviously a weekend is not enough time to get that kind of stuff together.”

During Kevin’s [conversation] with Frank, Frank told him that the new owner would not be keeping any of the current staff,” says Cottreau. 

Internet conversations fueled speculation about whether or not Frank’s had really closed. A since-deleted Facebook post on the  Bay View Town Hall Facebook group garnered both disappointment and relief from residents and patrons.

Talent buyer Gian Pogliano addressed the closure through a Facebook post on the 16th, saying he was working to reschedule shows at different venues. In the post, Pogliano thanked Cottreau for “seeing something in [him] that had been invisible to everyone else for over two decades of [his] life.” He also criticized the “business ethics” of the situation and the “sociopathic behavior of the owner,” but did not elaborate further. Pogliano has worked at Frank’s since 2011.

“We realized this was a lost cause and rallied the troops to decide what to do together. That was pretty much it for all of us,” Cottreau said in an email to Urban Milwaukee. “Unfortunately social media is easily misunderstood and when one person was discussing the closing they meant the sale date of the bar, which in my view is partly where all the confusion ballooned from…We had no idea if they would just change the locks and be closed [on the 16th]. We had been going through every scenario because we could not get the truth that we all deserved.”

Cottreau appears to have no regrets about how the situation was handled. “I am proud of the amazing individuals who were the heart and soul of this community and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support and love,” she says. “We stood up together for what we thought was the right thing to do. I would do it again, but I suspect I will never have to.”

Wickert maintains he had no knowledge or control of the situation. “I’m a Bay View native and people who know me know better than to believe I would do something like this,” he says. “My whole staff is certainly welcome to come back and talk to me about continued employment at the establishment.”

Despite the confusion, Wickert says the bar still had customers when it opened for the day on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Frank’s Power Plant continues to operate.

The property and an adjacent house remain listed for sale for $650,000. Wickert owns another house to the east, 2726 S. California St., that is not listed for sale.


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