Sophie Bolich

Tonic Tavern Regular Hopes To Open New Bar In Its Place

He's applied for a liquor license, but will he get a lease?

By - Feb 22nd, 2024 05:04 pm
Tonic. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

Tonic. Photo by Nastassia Putz.

For as long as The Tonic Tavern has been a fixture of the Bay View neighborhood, David Schrank has been a fixture of The Tonic Tavern.

An industry veteran and Bay View resident since 2005, Schrank has frequented the bar for all 15 years of its existence, even going as far as to call it his “home away from home.”

“It had this feeling of community there that just — I felt drawn to that,” he said. “They embrace everybody there and there was never any kind of judgements. Everybody was welcome.”

Last week, Tonic owner Paul Jonas announced that he would close the tavern at the end of the month. With last call less than a week away, Schrank is already laying plans for the future.

Just a few days after the news broke, Schrank applied for a liquor license at the address. His reasoning? “Why not get the ball rolling?”

He added that, although he does not yet have a lease for the space, he’s hoping to get a jump on the licensing process, which can take upwards of several months to complete. “I wanted to be able to get going as quickly as possible.”

The license, now pending before the Milwaukee Common Council, would allow Schrank to open a tavern called The Golden Horn in the former Tonic space. The location and its history are important, he said, as they represent a nostalgic era in the neighborhood where corner bars including Gerry’s Diamond Tap, Hayshakers and others once thrived.

The tavern’s title is a nod to those earlier days, as well as an homage to one of Schrank’s favorite movies, “Barfly.” The 1987 film, much of which takes place at the same-titled The Golden Horn bar, follows Henry Chinaski as he engages in brawls at what Rotten Tomatoes calls “a dingy Los Angeles watering hole.”

“I feel like those are kind of dying out,” he said of Milwaukee’s own dive bar scene. “I just want to bring that vibe back,” he said, referring less to dinginess and more to a welcoming environment. “In ‘The Barfly,’ The Golden Horn was always a friendly place. I want that to be the overarching theme.”

The next several weeks will be a “waiting game,” as building owner Timothy Dertz weighs his options for potential new tenants. His LLC, Capital Real Estate 2, owns three additional Bay View properties.

Schrank said he and his financial partner filled out a rental application, but are aware that Dertz has received a number of offers from other hopefuls. He added that he respects the landlord’s decision-making process and understands that the decision will take time.

Even if he doesn’t end up as the operator, Shrank said he’s looking forward to seeing what becomes of the tavern.

“Everyone is going to want to put their own unique spin — their own unique vision — on something,” he said. “I just hope that whoever gets the space will have as much love and appreciation for it as I do.”

Tonic is set to host its final show, featuring country band Wire & Nail, on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m.

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Categories: Food & Drink

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