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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 09:14 PM
Original message
The National Liquor Bar--an homage
The National Liquor Bar in Milwaukee closes its doors forever on July 30th.
For those of you who've never had the pleasure of being a served a beer and a shot by a seventy-plus year old woman, (Capri Slim dangling from her lips with an ash a mile long, shocking red Aquanet-matted hair bobbing slowly along the length of the bar, shouting "Go PACKERS in the fall and GO BREWERS in the summer), in this old working class bar, it might seem odd to post an homage to a tavern here.

But this is no ordinary tavern. It's a Liquor Bar.

Don't ask me what the hell a "Liquor Bar" is exactly, because I've been there and I still don't know. On one half of the huge room is a gigantic oval bar. On the other half, a liquor store, (selling booze and, for some reason, hot dogs), runs the length of the building. You can get a cheap beer, interesting conversation, get your checks cashed and a sixer to go all in one spot. And yes, this is the place Shepherd-Express contributor Art Kumbalek "frequents" weekly in his Art for Art's Sake column. (The closing of the bar is this week's Shepherd cover story, Last Call).

The bar is closing as part of an effort to revitalize the neighborhood and the property has been sold to Walgreens. Part of the reason the owner decided to sell, as he says in the Shepherd article, is due to a decline in patrons. As he put it, it's no longer a worker's bar because "So few people in the neighborhood have jobs." (Shepherd, p. 17)

All good things must come to an end, even neighborhood emblems. Still, it's hard for me not to feel a bit down when I think about this bar--excuse me, Liquor Bar--closing. Another example of the unique replaced by the mundane, the organic by the prefab. Sure, the remaining patrons can find another corner tavern to talk, argue, and drink in. Someone will buy the magnificent sign hanging outside and display it, (but please dear God don't let that "someone" be TGI Fridays!). But with that, some of Milwaukee fades further into memory.

I've gone on about this longer than I wanted to so let me just end by asking you to hoist one for the Liquor Bar--or if you get a chance hoist one in the Liquor Bar. Doors open at 6am.
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RevCheesehead Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 01:48 AM
Response to Original message
1. Jane - that is some fine writing.
Kinda makes me wish I lived nearby, so I could join you. For now, it will have to be a virtual toast. :toast:
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 08:52 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Thank you Rev. Virtual toasts are much appreciated
:toast:
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Jeff In Milwaukee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 08:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. Pretty Soon...
the only place to go for a beer will be TGIFridays or some other such sanitized-for-your-protection chain restaurant. And have you noticed the lengths these places go to in their attempts to look kitchy -- pretty much like that National Liquor Bar? Funny. They tear down the real thing and constuct fakes so we won't notice that our regional culture is vanishing.
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 09:09 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Yes, it's beyond depressing
I assume since you're in Milwaukee you're at least familliar with the area the bar is in. The area does need some work done. But I'm so tired of seeing neighborhood improvements mean the sterilization of the neighborhood. There has to be a way for our culture and progress to coexist.
Excellent point about the constructing fake kitsch--it reminds me in a way of this new movement cities seem to be undertaking to revamp their image as entertainment and artsy centers inspired (in part, I think) by that book "The Rise of the Creative Class." But don't get me started on that.

:toast:
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LTR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 10:38 AM
Response to Reply #2
10. Not so
You can throw a rock in just about any neighborhood of Milwaukee and come across a friendly little watering hole. There's a ton of fun bars in this town.

Wish I could say the same about Wauwatosa.
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #10
13. I know, and I'm glad for that.
This place is such an oddity that I just had to say something. (still trying to find a pic to post)

And Wauwatosa's alright.
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RetroLounge Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 12:33 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. There was a nice looking tavern in Tosa next to the tracks
at 68th and state. Never went in there, but it looked like it had tons of character. Got ruined in the big flood and they tore it down.

RL
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Jeff In Milwaukee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #10
16. That's good to know
Edited on Thu Jul-21-05 01:06 PM by Jeff In Milwaukee
I'm new to Milwaukee. In Cincinnati, it seems that they're using zoning to eliminate the neighborhood watering holes. Of course, there's also the problem of gentrification and spiraling rents.
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sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 09:30 AM
Response to Original message
5. And what an homage it is!
I'm not the barfly type person. (I can't stand cig smoke) But if I were in Milwaukee, I'd join you for one last drink in what sounds like a wonderful neighborhood watering hole.

And BTW, welcome to DU!
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 10:09 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. thanks
You know, I've only been inside the place a few times but growing up around here I've gone past it so many times that it just feels like, and I guess it is in a way, part of my history.
Truth be told, it's a total dive but it's one of the things I love about Wisconsin. We have so many brilliantly ridiculous things here and it's just sad to see one more go.

As for having a last drink, here's a virtual (and smoke free) toast :toast:

(and thanks for the DU welcome--It's nice to be around so many great people)
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LTR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 10:36 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. Only thing is...
... 27th and National is not a wonderful area. It is pure urban blight.

And I don't think a Walgreens will improve it either. Too bad, since there are some very nice old homes down 27th (also referred to as Layton Blvd.) and the Domes are just up the street.

National Av. needs much more than this to improve the area.
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:00 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. Oh I agree
I mentioned that in my response to Jeff. It needs improvement badly and I'm all for that. And of course the bar is pretty gross, granted. I was just sad at seeing something I grew up with go.
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ewagner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 10:19 AM
Response to Original message
7. Doors open at 6am.
Edited on Thu Jul-21-05 10:20 AM by ewagner
I've never been in this place but I know a few other places in Wisconsin that are similar.

When I moved from Florida to Wisconsin, bars opening at 6AM were an oddity to me. I never encountered it in Florida. Then again, in Florida I didn't encounter heavy industry much...actually at all.

I didn't understand that "graveyard shift" got off at 6 or 7 in the morning and working men would stop by and have a boilermaker or just a beer before going home from work, just like the normal "dayshifters" would do.

I miss the ambiance of those old places. They were hangouts for some real characters, or, more preciesely, people who actually had character. Once you were a "regular" there you became just another character and part of the supporting cast. There are still a few around but as one of my favorite columnists, Mike Royko, used to opine, "once they start hanging ferns from the ceiling, you know the place has gone to hell...."

Here's to the National Liquor Bar and all others just like it!
:toast:

on edit: Your homage was beautiful and brought back a lot of memories which inspirted me. Thank you.
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts
Royko, God bless him! Always knew just what to say. I second your toast and here's one to Royko too :toast:
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ewagner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 01:44 PM
Response to Reply #8
17. Ha! I just remembered
Your post reminded me of Mike Royko and his favorite (mythical) drinking pal Slats Grodnik . The National Liquor Bar is the kind of place that Slats would've liked.

Years ago (in the 80's I think) I sent Royko two bucks and told him to buy himself and Slats a beer on me....
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 02:17 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. ha ha...nice.
Forgot all about Slats--he'd have fit right in there. I just posted a link to the Shepherd article. There's a bit by Art Kumbalek. If you like Royko & Slats, you might like him. (Apologies if you already read/know about Art).
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 02:40 PM
Response to Reply #19
22. Art's been around a long, long time
Though I don't live in beertown anymore, I still think about Art sometimes when I go to work to make a 'buck two-eighty'...

Or as Art would say, "What the fock!"



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Dolomite Donating Member (689 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:01 AM
Response to Original message
12. You could buy barrels up until midnight! DAMN!
At least there's still one more in West Allica on 84th street!
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:07 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Oh Westallica! Home Sweet MF'N Home!
Good point.
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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 02:14 PM
Response to Original message
18. Here's a link to the Shepherd article if you want it
Edited on Thu Jul-21-05 02:19 PM by jane_pippin
They do a better job than me:

http://www.shepherd-express.com/7_21_05/cover.htm

on edit: the homepage of the shepherd has a picture or two on it if you want to see it
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ewagner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 02:24 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. Thanks for that link
You're right...he's just like Royko...first time I've read his column.
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 02:35 PM
Response to Original message
21. A toast to one of my former haunts!
When I drove a taxi in Milwaukee, the drunkest drunks always came from the Liquor Bar. I saw people crawling down the sidewalk from that place more than once. I didn't drink there often, but when I did, I got drunk.

I can remember the other dives I used to drink at: Romano's Roman Coin, Wolski's, and the Big Mouth Frog. I used to hang at some trendier places for fun, but for serious drinking those couldn't be beat at 6am after an all night taxi shift.

I know the Frog is closed, but I think Romano's and Wolski's are still open. I bet they don't sell $0.40 'short' draft beers anymore, though.



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jane_pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. Here's to the drunkest drunks
Kidding, sort of. :)

The Roman Coin is still around but I think the owner just died or passed management to his daughter who is revamping it. Wolski's I know of but don't know if it's still going or not.

40 cent tappers! I'm 26 and have only heard tell of them although according to the article in the Shepherd about The National bar, on the last day they are going to offer 1982 prices, so it's close, in a way.

Since I'm toast happy this thread, here's to the drunkest drunks, the good folks who drive them home safely, 40 cent tappers, and good old Art Kumbalek :toast:
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ewagner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 03:42 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. Here, here
:toast:
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Dolomite Donating Member (689 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-22-05 09:50 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. Big Mouth Frog had the most insane burgers!
Sad to see them go!

And yes, Wolski's is still rockin' the free world.

(Never forget the time I saw an "I Closed Wolski's" bumper sticker on a bathroom wall in an Amsterdam coffee house)
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