Sophie Bolich

Upper East Bar Set to Reopen This Spring With New Owners

New, six-member ownership group hopes to revive the corner tavern.

By - Jan 5th, 2023 02:11 pm
Upper East Bar, 1732 E. North Ave. Photo taken Feb. 14, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

Upper East Bar, 1732 E. North Ave. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

After a months-long hiatus, Upper East Bar, a historic corner tavern and longtime site of the Eastsider, is set to reopen later this spring under new ownership.

The fate of the eastside watering hole, 1732 E. North Ave., was uncertain for the latter part of the past year. It had opened as Upper East Bar in February under Cord Harris, but Harris quietly closed the bar last fall.

The business will have a fresh start in the new year, as a team of six, community-minded Milwaukeeans plans to breathe new life into both the establishment and the neighborhood at large.

The bar’s ownership is split evenly between members Aaron Smith, Tianna Townsend, Briana Redmond, Billy Williams, Stephanie Townsend and Branden Joseph. Together, the group comprises Premier Closers LLC.

“When we saw the opportunity for Upper East Bar, it was a no-brainer for us,” said Stephanie Townsend, who is a real estate agent in addition to co-owner of the bar. “It’s an opportunity for us to reopen a bar within a community that we frequent, and then also bring more life into that area.”

Townsend said that community support has been strong, and that the group has received valuable mentorship from established bar owners including Bobby Greenya and Maire Mills-Greenya of Champion’s Pub and Mike Rebers of The Tracks.

“For us, that was both a rewarding thing and something that was enlightening as we went into this venture,” Townsend said. “And we want to follow the motto that Maire from Champion’s has, which is that we’re better together. I absolutely love that motto and that sticks with me.”

The new owners plan to pay that kindness forward by donating a percentage of the bar’s profits to a youth-centered organization. As parents and active participants in programs such as running rebels and athletic coaching, Townsend said that the group has a particular passion for uplifting young people.

Aside from minor aesthetic updates including local artwork for the interior walls and additional outdoor lighting for ambiance and safety, Townsend said the group has no plans to alter the cozy, 800-square-foot bar area.

Guests can expect an assortment of local beer on the menu, as well as a selection of cocktails including a signature margarita or martini to represent the East Side and reflect the new owners, said Townsend.

“Overall, we want to have that Cheers-type effect,” she said, referencing the 1980s sitcom. “We want to make sure that everyone feels welcome.”

A liquor license for Upper East Bar is currently pending before the Common Council. If approved, the bar is proposed to open within the next few months.

Upper East Bar plans to be open Tuesday through Sunday, from 2 p.m. to close on weekdays and 11 a.m. to close on weekends.

After Eastsider closed in December 2017, the corner tavern was briefly an Italian wine bar, Baccanera Enoteca, from April 2019 to December 2020.

Similar to Upper East Bar, Vitucci’s Lounge, another long-standing eastside establishment located less than a block away, is set to reopen under new ownership. The bar operated for 85 years at 1832 E. North Ave. until its closure in 2019.

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