Council Issues 20-Day Suspension To Lounge 340
Suspension issued after neighbors shared grievances about litter, noise, loitering and reckless driving.
The bar, 340 W. Reservoir Ave., opened in 2019 with the intent to serve as a laid-back lounge for no more than a handful of guests at a time. But throughout the past year and a half, neighbors say they have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people inside the establishment, as well as litter, excessive noise and illegal activity associated with its patrons.
Will Meyers, who lives across the street from the lounge, said he has observed instances of drunk and reckless driving, illegal parking, carryout liquor, loitering and violent altercations between patrons — one of which resulted in a subject producing a gun, though it was never discharged.
As part of his March 7 testimony before the Licenses Committee, Meyers submitted a flash drive containing more than 800 megabytes of photo and video evidence of neighbors’ claims about the bar.
“It’s great that it’s been thriving and that the owner has been able to grow it, but just given its location…we as neighbors feel that this current trajectory is not appropriate and cannot co-exist with the safety and wellbeing of the neighborhood,” he said.
The corner tavern is located in a residential area of Halyard Park, and is surrounded by a Boys & Girls Club to the north, YWCA to the east, a condo building and residential homes to the south and a church and monastery to the west.
Another neighbor, Caitlin Forsythe, said she feels that the bar has “exceeded the neighborhood.”
Alongside the aforementioned issues, she said she has witnessed drag racing on the street outside of the bar, as well as patrons sitting in their vehicles after bar close, playing loud music and continuing to consume alcohol.
“This has gone beyond what this local neighborhood lounge wants to be,” she said.
Forsythe said she was surprised to hear that there was no police report for the establishment, despite police being called multiple times throughout the past year.
“I’m a little sad to hear that they’re not on record,” she said. “But we have called. We have tried.”
In addition to Meyers and Forsythe, nearly a dozen neighbors appeared in opposition of the bar at license renewal hearings held March 7 and 29, as well as a neighborhood meeting on March 6. Those in opposition included two former residents who said they moved out of the neighborhood due to disturbances from the bar.
Patrice Dickerson appeared at the March 7 and 29 hearings, and was accompanied by attorney Robert Webb for the latter. She told the committee that she is making a plan to address neighbors’ concerns, and committed to hiring additional security to patrol outdoors and during private events, as well as encouraging patrons to arrive and leave the bar in a “proper and timely manner.”
Webb added that the business is trying to work with neighbors in a “collaborative fashion.”
Alderman Mark Borkowski pushed back against the attorney, questioning why the business took so long to enact change.
“There seems to be a proprietor who is not considerate of neighbors,” said the alderman, who also expressed concern about the frequency with which the bar hosts special events.
“There’s always a list of promises, of things that will change, and they never change,” said Brandis Ohlsson, a former neighbor who said she recently left the neighborhood due to the bar.
At the most recent hearing, Dickerson presented the council with an improvement plan. The written document was created in partnership with neighbors.
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs said she is hopeful that the agreement will work, adding that she appreciated the effort by both the neighbors and Dickerson to find a compromise.
Coggs suggested renewal with a 20-day suspension, but warned that she wouldn’t be as understanding in the future if problems persist.
The suspension went into effect on April 18 and will continue through March 8.
One year into its operation, the bar was the site of a fatal shooting that took place in March 2020. Police killed Tony Taylor after he stormed into the bar and threatened to kill his wife, Kamesha Lewis-Taylor, who was co-owner of the establishment at the time.
The bar temporarily closed after the incident and remained closed for the following months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It reopened in June 2020.
The license renewal process only considers incidents that occurred within the past year, so the shooting was not a factor in this year’s renewal process.
The tavern is planning a grand re-opening for Thursday, May 11.
“We’re going to have a great time,” Dickerson told Urban Milwaukee. “We’re going to continue to be in our community and continue to do the best we can.”