Milwaukee Common Council Approves License for Old World Third Street Strip Club

May 10, 2017

People who've wanted to open a strip club in downtown Milwaukee for years appear to have gotten their way. On Tuesday, the Common Council approved a license application after repeatedly rejecting the plan in the past.

For five years, a group of owners has tried to get the city's OK to open a strip club on Old World Third Street. The group even sued the city for blocking its plans.

Opponents have argued that a strip club isn't a good fit for the area. They've also criticized some people in the owners group, including one who's been in trouble with the law.

Yet Ald. Tony Zielinski argued before Tuesday's vote that it's time to let the project to move forward.

"The applicant that is responsible for the operation of the business is different than the previous applicant. I voted against this application in the past when there was a different operator, and this operator has an excellent track record of operating a number of establishments in the state of Wisconsin," he said.

Zielinski was one of the main people pushing for license approval during the council meeting. One of the main opponents, Ald. Robert Bauman, disagreed with Zielinski's portrayal of the strip club developers.

"I think we need to lift the veil off a little bit of hypocrisy over this entire license. The fact of the matter is this is the sixth time an application has been filed for this location,  the same people -- or a variation of the same people and families -- on each occasion. So it's not different operators. It's the same operator. They've just shuffled the deck each time," he said.

But Bauman says he's more concerned about the circumstances under which the license application made its way to the council this time around. Members were told if they approved the license, the owners group would drop its legal challenges over the city's denial of previous applications.

"In effect, we are being asked to trade a license for the settlement of lawsuits,"he said.

Bauman tried to delay the vote on the license until the public had a chance to weigh in on recently added language. But Ald. Jim Bohl urged colleagues not to put off license approval. He said doing so would make the city look bad in the eyes of judges considering lawsuits the city faces.

"The courts are going to rule against the city. You will have a strip club at this location, the city will be ten-plus million dollars in the hole," Bohl said.

Bohl pointed out that the city attorney advised council members to approve the license application, which they did on a vote of 10 to five.

Credit Michelle Maternowski