Graham Kilmer
Taverns

This Is It! Needs Your Help

Historic LGBT bar in Cathedral Square in danger of closing forever during COVID-19 shutdown.

By - Mar 17th, 2020 01:41 pm
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This Is It! Photo by Joey Grihalva.

This Is It! Photo by Joey Grihalva.

This Is It!, the longest running LGBT bar in the Midwest, is asking for help.

It shut down early Tuesday morning, like many establishments across the county. In a Facebook post written late Monday night, the owner, George Schneider made a plea for help from the community. If the shutdown continues much longer than two weeks, the business will be in danger of closing forever.

The owners set up a GoFundMe page so that fans of the bar can support it. “Even if it’s the price of one drink,” Schneider said, it will help the bar and the people that work there.

“I wish I had the financial standing or deep pockets to bail us out,” he wrote. The business has no cash flow to pay bills and, currently, there is no relief or suspension of debt payments in sight.

Schneider and his business partner Michael Fisher, have invested everything they have in the business. In January 2019, a large expansion of the bar was finished. The new space created a new dance floor and added more performance space for local drag performers and DJ’s.

But that expansion also meant that Schneider and Fisher incurred a lot of debt. Now, with the shutdown, it’s all on the line. “Everything, we stand to lose,” Schneider said. “Every single one of our employees stands to lose.”

The funds from the Go Fund Me will be used to keep the business afloat, but anything left over will be used to support the bar’s workers.

This Is It! was opened in 1968 by Catherine “June” Brehm at 418 E. Wells St. And it’s operated there ever since. In 2012, Brehm’s son, Joe Brehm, handed the bar over to Schneider, the current owner notes,  “after they kept it going through some of the hardest times for the LGBT community. I knew the weight of the responsibility I was accepting.”

This Is It! is unparalleled in its 52-year run. Even Stonewall, the famous LGBT bar in New York City, was closed down for awhile. “So many memories, so many struggles within the LGBT community have played out in this space,” Schneider told Urban Milwaukee. For that reason, the owners take their stewardship of the bar very seriously. They aren’t just running a place for people to have fun, they are preserving a piece of LGBT history and a Milwaukee institution.

Schneider said he hopes the state and federal government will provide some type of relief for small businesses and the many workers in precarious service and hospitality industry jobs. But until that happens, “everything’s up in the air,” Schneider said. “That’s why we’re turning to our customers we love.”

In 2018, This Is It! celebrated its 50th anniversary. Schneider hopes the bar will see its next one, too.

This is It!

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