Thurman’s Is Back From The Dead
Closed for more than a year, the baseball/Grateful Dead-themed bar off Brady Street returns.
“What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” So reads a chalkboard at the entrance to Thurman’s 15, the Lower East Side bar at 1731 N. Arlington Pl. that reopened on April 20 after being closed since January 2021.
Lennon also owned the adjacent cottage at 1711 N. Pulaski St., known as the “Packers Cottage” thanks to its green and gold paint scheme. After his death, Thurman’s struggled. A stabbing homicide outside the tavern in August 2016, did little to brighten the mood at the corner of N. Arlington Pl. and N. Pulaski St. COVID and a still-open probate case complicated matters. It was time for a change. The building and business were put up for sale, the future of both in doubt.
A Neighbor to the Rescue
The property came to the attention of Richard John “Dickie” Paul, Jr., a neighborhood resident who has remodeled a number of old buildings in the neighborhood along with his wife Christa Allex Paul, his father Richard, Sr. and brother Tim Paul. They already owned the building to the south, and purchased the business and structure for $250,000 on June 30, 2021. A related entity bought the Packers Cottage that January for $165,000, amassing a considerable parcel of contiguous ownership for the densely packed neighborhood. (Only Julilly Kohler, the Suminski family and the Bondar family of Wolski’s Tavern, down N. Pulaski St. have comparable holdings.)
Yet even as COVID cases diminished, taverns reopened and the masks came off, Thurman’s 15 remained shuttered. A glimpse through the windows showed much carpentry equipment and other tools and goods of the remodeling trade. However work was slow, and the room looked little changed.
Looks can be deceiving. Most of the work underway was hidden from view — it took place behind the bar and in the netherworld below, reached via an inconvenient trap door barely hanging by its hinges. Beneath the sinks, the floor mat covered gaps in the boards below. The cellar, seen only by bartenders, beer distributors and building inspectors, was a disaster. The new owners devoted their time and money to making these hidden improvements prior to reopening. With the exception of the removal of a vestibule, a fair amount of scrubbing, a bit of selective painting, new floors where needed, new cellar access and other minor alterations, including a beer barrel urinal in the men’s room and a more practical stage for musicians, the work was done, and Thurman’s 15 reopened.
Decades of graffiti remained on the walls. The hammered copper-and-brass bar surface glistened again, the tap selection was vastly expanded. One of Milwaukee’s most famous jukeboxes remained on the floor. A mini-shuffleboard game now fronts the window. It can be converted to a serving table for Packers games. On the television, a baseball game was being broadcast. The exhaust fan in the back was humming full blast. Things were back to normal in the Land of the Dead.
The Great Brady Street Bicycle Race June 23rd
Thurman’s 15 offers a front-row seat for the inaugural Great Brady Street Bicycle Race to be held Thursday, June 23, from 10:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It will be the second turn of the race, which will proceed north on N. Pulaski St. before touching E. Kane Pl. briefly before heading south, uphill on N. Humboldt Ave. before heading toward the lake on E. Brady St. to complete the circuit. The streets will be lined with racers, spectators and party-goers.
Before the structure was erected, the site served as the woodshed of Frank Billows. At 8:47 p.m. on May 25, 1883, an alert citizen issued a call from Box 49 alerting the fire department to a conflagration at the shed. It was extinguished with no loss of life or property. That same month there had also been a fire in an ice house on Barclay Street that may, perhaps, have extinguished itself.
The building for Thurman’s 15 has been standing since 1890, then bearing the address of 873 Sobieski Street. A map from 1894 shows many buildings crowded, sometimes four deep, in the immediate area. Numerous tiny structures appear behind the homes and small stores — these were the outhouses, that the poor Polish immigrants were obliged to use. As always, the giant St. Hedwig’s church and its school dominated the landscape. Across the street, where Passeggio is now located, was the Model Steam Laundry. By 1910 the outhouses were gone, in a tribute to municipal sanitation, and the steam laundry was joined by the Lepak Bros. Trunk M’fy and S. H. Heine Brass Foundry.
For more on the history of Thurman’s 15, read Bar Exam: “Thurman’s 15 is Always Dead,” May 8th, 2015.
On Tap - Sponsored by Lakefront Brewery
- Anchor Steam Beer
- Bell's Oberon
- Bell's Two Hearted Ale
- Component Brewing Company
- Eagle Park Seasonal
- Lakefront Brewery Hazy Rabbit
- Lakefront Brewery IPA
- Lakefront Brewery Riverwest Stein Beer
- New Glarus Moon Man
- New Glarus Spotted Cow
- Raised Grain Summer Vice
- Sierra Nevada 420
- Third Space Frog Weiss
- Lakefront Brewery Bierzeit
- Trade Name: Thurman’s 15
- Location: 1731 N. Arlington Pl. City of Milwaukee
- Neighborhood: Lower East Side (“Brady Street”)
- Subdivision: None Found. Old neighborhood
- Architect: None Found
- Phone Number: 414-378-6981
- Website: None Found
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thurmans15
- Twitter: None Found
- Description: Dreadlocks, patchouli and tie-dye jam to the Dead.
- Food: No munchies are sold here, but free buffet for Packers games, and free shots for touchdowns.
- Signature Drink: Lakefront Brewery Riverwest Stein Beer has been available here continuously for decades. Many people like to drink it with a shot.
- Capacity: 80 in 1,197-square-foot tavern.
- Restrooms: Women’s, men’s rooms. Remodeled in 1940’s and 1970’s and 2022. Heavily graffitied men’s room has layer upon layer of paint, preserved after restoration. The custom urinal is crafted from a beer barrel.
- Year Established: Established as Thurman’s 15 on St. Patrick’s Day 1987. Opened under current ownership as of 4/20/2022. Had been closed since New Years 2020. Previously was Zum Zeppel for about a decade, before that was Emil Miller’s Tap
- Year Building Constructed: Old frame tavern with residence above was constructed in 1890.
- Building Owner: Black Dog Holdings, LLC., Christa Paul, Registered Agent. License application lists Zum Zeppel, LLC. Richard J. Paul, Jr. Registered Agent as building owner. Purchased for $250,000 on 06/30/2021
- Estimated Rent: According to license application, operator will pay $1,395 monthly rent to an affiliated entity.
- Property Assessment: The 2,067-square-foot lot is assessed at $45,500 ($22.01 per square foot) and the improvement is assessed at $232,750 for a total assessed valuation of $232,750. 2015 Assessment: $248,000
- Property taxes: Billed to Black Dog Holdings, $7,446.46. Paid In Full
- Business Owner: Zum Zeppel, LLC, Richard J. Paul, Jr. Agent, 33.3% owner. DOB 02/28/1975
- Business: Tavern; 100% alcohol sales
- Walk Score: 92 out of 100 “Walker’s Paradise” Daily errands do not require a car. City Average: 62 out of 100
- Transit Score: 61 out of 100. “Good Transit” Many transit options. City Average: 49 out of 100
- Bike Score: 92 out of 100. “Biker’s Paradise”. Daily errands can be accomplished on a bike
- Aldermanic District: 3rd, Position Vacant as of this writing. Formerly Nik Kovac. Only candidate on ballot for November election is Rep. Jonathan Brostoff
- Police District: District 1
- Bike Racks: There used to be a couple right at the front door
- Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory Record: Not Found
- Bar Exam: “Thurman’s 15 is Always Dead” May 8th, 2015
- Maps: 1894 Map Vol. 1 Sheet 42; 1910 Map Vol. 1 Sheet 60
UPDATE: The article originally said the bar closed in January 2020, it closed in January 2021.
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One thought on “Bar Exam: Thurman’s Is Back From The Dead”
I fondly recall (1979 or so) this location as Zum Zeppel’s one of the area’s bristle board dart bars along with Wolski”s and Jo Cat’s. A former residential flat it appears. One of the two dart lanes was located in what may have been a closet.