Sophie Bolich

Uptown Bar and Grill Given 30-Day Suspension

Old North Milwaukee bar faced lengthy police report, but owner and manager dispute record.

By - Feb 9th, 2024 10:57 am
Site of Uptown Bar and Grill, 3535 W. Villard Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Site of Uptown Bar and Grill, 3535 W. Villard Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Uptown Bar and Grill will remain closed until mid-February as a result of a suspension handed down by the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to issue a 30-day suspension to the tavern, 3535 W. Villard Ave., based on a 12-item police report.

At the time of the meeting, however, the business had already been closed for 20 days due to a lapse in its license. Area Alderwoman Andrea Pratt asked that those days count towards the suspension. As a result, the tavern will be allowed to reopen on Feb. 16.

Owner Tonia Otis and manager Lucas Brown appeared before the Milwaukee Licenses Committee on Jan. 5.

“Twelve items in 2023 is 11 and a half too many,” Alderman Mark Borkowski said of the police report, which included six instances of shots fired, two shootings, an individual with a gun and two accounts of battery, as well as several reports of underage patrons.

“What’s the plan for 2024?” the alderman asked.

In response, Brown told the committee that most of the reports were fabricated. “Almost everything on here is false information.”

He stated that the bar is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays, meaning it was closed during several of the incidents included in the police report.

Otis also suggested that the reports were false and said that “a majority” of police calls likely came from a “disgruntled person” who wants her license to be revoked. She pointed out that in many cases, officers weren’t able to find evidence such as bullet casings or blood.

“Going forward, I hope that this person, whoever this person may be, stops the calls,” she said.

Borkowski encouraged Otis to take action if she suspects the tavern is being unfairly targeted. “That is clearly against the law,” he said. “If this is taking place, that’s harassment.”

But Pratt said she suspects that’s not the case, noting that only a few of the callers were anonymous, and that most reports came from different people.

She also pressed Brown on his statement that the bar is only open on weekends. He reaffirmed that the bar is closed throughout the week, but said he hosts teen dance nights on Monday evenings. On those days, a younger crowd comes to the bar to have dance battles. He said only food, no alcohol, is served during that time.

His Instagram page tells a different story.

Several flyers and videos posted to Brown’s social media page advertise events occurring on Wednesdays, including “Members Only” and “Wet Wednesday” promotions, both scheduled in May 2023. Another post invites patrons to Money Run Monday and touts a special on shots.

Alderman Mark Chambers, Jr. told Otis that he sees a “disconnect” in her management of the business and urged her to frequent the establishment more often.

At the time of the hearing, Otis told committee members that she typically visits the tavern once per month. Brown takes care of day-to-day operations.

Chambers also suggested implementing an age limit and stopping any unapproved activity. “At the rate that y’all are going, you’re headed towards nonrenewal,” he said.

Pratt echoed Chambers’ suggestions and further recommended Otis and Brown to make themselves more accessible to police. At the conclusion of the hearing, she motioned for a 30-day suspension. There were no objections.

In her closing statement, Otis thanked the committee for allowing her to share her side of the story, and said she would work to make improvements.

Uptown Bar and Grill received its license in 2021. The building was previously home to Boston Bar and Grill and Versace Nightlife.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

One thought on “Uptown Bar and Grill Given 30-Day Suspension”

  1. Colin says:

    WI needs gun reform BAD.
    Sucks that businesses and their employees and patrons are punished because GOP refuses to do anything about the rampant gun problem in this state.
    We are in a mental health crisis and their answer is always MORE GUNs. It’s insanity.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us