The brouhaha that Brew Haus built
May 1, 2012
By Katherine Keller
“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”
That’s what Eddie (Walter Brennan) asks Slim (Lauren Bacall) in the 1944 film To Have and Have Not. Then he adds, “You know, you gotta be careful of dead bees…they can sting you just as bad as live ones.”
Tim Brodersen, aka Brody, the proprietor of Down and Over, formerly the Bay View Brew Haus, 2534 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., may have felt that he had trodden on some of those “dead bees” April 24 as he was confronted by a group of angry and disgruntled neighbors.
His irate neighbors shared the sentiment. They had been subject to loud music, car alarms, noisy loiterers, and acts that defiled property and deprived them of sleep since 2009 when the Brew Haus opened. They had already been stung and they were there to say no more.
The Down And Over’s first-floor main hall was filled with about 130 people who came to the meeting organized by District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski to allow residents to air their opinions about Brodersen’s liquor license application.
This is Brodersen’s second bar; he has owned and operated Up And Under, also a live music venue, at 1216 E. Brady St., for six years.
Brodersen purchased the building April 4 from Stephen Fix, who had negotiated a purchase via land contract from owner Arthur Manske. Before Fix opened the bar in the building, once a Masonic temple, Manske had operated a banquet hall business there.
Fix acquired the building in 2009, where he intended, but never fully launched, the microbrewery he planned to operate on the first floor.
Along with the real estate, Brodersen also acquired Fix’s corporation, Spectacle Enterprises—with its liquor license.
In Wisconsin, a liquor license can be issued to a corporation. “The corporation is the actual licensee and the corporation designates a person as agent,” according to Jessica Celella, specialist in Milwaukee’s City Licensing Division. The new agent, in this case Brodersen, then has ten days to file the change of agent with the city. Brodersen did so, he said, on March 29, the day he and Fix were originally scheduled to close the sale of the Brew Haus.
The city’s License Committee and the Common Council must approve the change of agent. Brodersen’s hearing before the committee is May 7, and if approved the change of agent will be forwarded for a vote by the Common Council May 22.
Brodersen must again appear before the License Committee and Common Council in June, when the license is up for annual renewal.
Joanie Kitzrow contacted the Compass April 23 to voice her opposition to the new tavern. She claimed that she represented the opinion and sentiment of a number of her neighbors, who like herself, were planning to oppose Brodersen’s tavern license. During the tenure of former Bay View Brew Haus owner Stephen Fix, Kitzrow said that she and her neighbors were often disturbed by loud music from the bar and by Brew Haus patrons who boisterously loitered outside the bar, and littered and urinated on their properties.
She and husband Terry Kitzrow, she said, felt betrayed by Stephen Fix, who stated during a public meeting concerning his plans for the Bay View Brew Haus, that his establishment planned to book live music but that he would restrict it to acoustic music because he wanted to respect the neighbors in the vicinity of the bar.
Kitzrow said that she contacted Zielinski April 2, the day before the spring election in which Zielinski was defending his aldermanic seat, “when we heard a rumor that a new bar was to open” in the former Bay View Brew Haus. Zielinski told her he was not aware of “any bar opening there,” Kitzrow said.
However, the Compass contacted Zielinski for comment March 28, the morning after we published a notice on this newspaper’s website of the pending sale of the Brew Haus to Brodersen. Zielinski replied that he had just learned of the pending sale that morning when he read it online.
On April 3, at Zielinski’s election celebration, Kitzrow said that she had spoken again to Zielinski about the bar. Kitzrow claimed Zielinski said, “If they open with live music, I will shut them down.”
Zielinski said he does not recall talking to Kitzrow April 2, the day before the spring election. He said he talked to so many people that day that he may have spoken to her but could not be sure. He did verify that he spoke with Kitzrows April 3 at his election party but he disagrees with her rendition of their conversation, denying he told them he’d call the police if Brodersen opened with live music. “She’s wrong! Why would I tell her that!” he said.
Having established his legal right to operate the bar, Brodersen opened for business Friday, April 6. Brodersen was unprepared for the drama that ensued. The police, at Alderman Zielinski’s bidding, showed up and closed him down. “I was really angry when the police showed up,” Brodersen said, “because I had been trying to do all the right things.”
Zielinski said he called the cops because he thought the bar was operating without a license. Brodersen, who said that he’s mended fences with Zielinski since the April 6 shutdown, observed that Zielinski should have been aware of the intended purchase. “About two weeks before the closing was planned (on March 30),” Brodersen said, “I called Zielinski’s office to introduce myself and tell him my plans.” Because Zielinski was not available, Brodersen said he left a message with the alderman’s staffer. He attempted to contact Zielinski again by email on April 4, Brodersen said. “I didn’t hear anything from Zielinski, Brodersen said, “so I opened April 6th.”
That night, neighbors Joanie and Terry Kitzrow, whose home is directly west of the bar, alerted Zielinski that the bar had opened and music was blaring from within. Zielinski responded by calling the police and instructing them to shut Brodersen down.
April 24 meeting
Those who voiced their opposition to Brodersen, an animated group of about ten who were most vexed, all spoke of their distrust of Brodersen based on their experience with Fix and the Brew Haus disturbances. One spoke of vomit on his car, others of car alarms, loud voices at closing time, urination on their property, and littering. It was blaring music that caused the most distress and those who were affected by it were especially grieved because they said Fix promised that he would only book acoustic bands, a promise he didn’t keep.
“The Fixes (Steve and his father Matt) lied. We’ve been duped one too many times,” Terry Kitzrow said. “You can’t insulate bass. We can feel it in our house. The music on April 6th rattled our windows. We don’t want the Brady Street Circus in our neighborhood.”
Brodersen, sometimes appearing like the proverbial deer in the headlights, took pains to address his detractors. He pointed out the investment he’s made in the main room’s acoustics: he relined the walls with wallboard, filled in at least six of the room’s windows and attached hinged shutters to the windows that remain. Underneath the 5/8” drywall, he’s painted a special acoustic compound to deaden the sound generated within. He said he’s going to add soundproofed doors to the main entry (from Kinnickinnic) and was probably going to invest in special soundproofing paint for the exit door on the west wall. He also pointed to a new Bose speaker system that would help keep the sound inside, and said that he’s been taking readings of the decibel levels from within and without, as work progressed.
Brodersen appealed to his opponents, asking them to give him a chance and indicating that he hoped he might begin to win their trust and confidence based on the acoustical remediation he’d invested in. Later he said that if necessary, he would hire a second security person to patrol and control patrons on the exterior of the building because he wanted to avoid the problems his neighbors on Kinnickinnic and Otjen said they’d had with the Brew Haus.
Chris Lehman, who said he does the sound for Chill On The Hill, the summer concert series in Humboldt Park, defended Brodersen and the acoustical modifications he had made, pointing to the window shutters and then the Bose speakers. “This is the highest technology out here. This is the top of the line technology made for a room this size,” he said. By contrast, he said that Fix’s sound system was made for a room many, many times larger.
Brodersen said he plans to book live music Fridays and Saturdays, karaoke Mondays, open mic for musicians Wednesdays, and Swing Dance Thursdays.
Terry Kitzrow, unconvinced and again citing the previous owners, who booked bands that played loud music late into the night said, “I have an Ambien habit from the Fixes.”
The number of those in the audience who spoke in support of Brodersen was greater than those who spoke in opposition. They attested to his character, their experience with his bar on Brady Street, either as musicians, or in some cases, some who live or lived near the bar.
Zielinski brought the meeting to a close with a reminder that Brodersen’s hearing before the License Committee is May 7. He distributed notecards that he advised people to complete with their name, address, and their disposition, for or against, Brodersen’s liquor license. He said those who could not attend the hearing could have their voice heard via their written testimony on the notecards.
Audience member Patty Pritchard Thompson questioned the validity of the cards. She asked Zielinski if they would be admitted at the committee hearing. Zielinski said that it was not the norm, but that he would ask the committee chair to allow them.
Ironically, two days later, Common Council President Willie Hines appointed Zielinski as the new chair of the License Committee.
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