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Have you closed Wolski's?

I never closed Wolski's: Longtime locals tell why


For more than 100 years, Wolski's Tavern has been a popular watering hole for Milwaukeeans. Current co-ower Dennis Bonder's great grandfather opened the bar in 1908 on Brady Street and later moved the building -- yes, moved the building -- to the current Pulaski Street location.

Wolski's Tavern has one of the most recognizable bumper stickers in Brew City. It's a simple white sticker with blue writing that read "I Closed Wolski's" slapped on the bumpers of cars, on street signs, in bathroom stalls, on guitar cases and countless other surfaces all over the world.

The sticker tradition started in the late '70s, and Bonder says he blows through 20,000 stickers a year.

And yet, so many Milwaukeeans have never closed the bar.

OnMilwaukee.com contributor Dave Begel is one of these people.

"I've closed just about every bar in Milwaukee, but never Wolski's," says Begel. "And the reason is simple: the roads around there are so confusing that I figured if I closed it -- which would mean I was pretty drunk -- I might never get home and my wife would be even more pissed than normal. I mean you could just go in circles around there and never get out."

Frank Hillson is another East Side bar regular who closed The Landmark, Vitucci's, Hooligan's and numerous other taverns, but never Wolski's.

"Every time I see one of those stickers, I make a vow to never close Wolski's," he says. "I must be a rebel at heart."

Milwaukee's Janet Schiff says she never closed the bar, or went to the bar, because she misinterpreted the bumper stickers. She thought the bar was closed for business.

"I thought that Wolski's was closed due to public demand. This was before learning that Wolski's was a bar and what it meant to 'close' a bar," says Schiff.

Wolski's stickers are spotted, literally, all over the world. One of Bondar's favorite stories involves two well-dressed ladies, about 60 years old, who walked into the bar while he was bartending.

"They said they drove up from Chicago, just to check out Wolski's because they had been on an African safari together, and saw a Wolski's sticker in the middle of nowhere," says Bondar.

Bay View's Russ Facia has a similar story.

"Last time we were in Istanbul, the first bar / restaurant we happened to walk in had an 'I Closed Wolski's' sticker on the wall," says Fascia.

Matthew Eells appreciates Wolski's in theory, and yet, has never stopped by the bar, let alone close it.

"I find the bumper stickers comforting and it makes me feel like I'm part of something larger. I've attended their anniversary party at the Lakefront Palm Garden and sat next to the Mayor, yet never stepped foot in the tavern. I don't know anybody who goes regularly," he says.

Elizabeth Clark says she lived on the same block as Wolski's for three years, but never walked in to check it out.

"I got the feeling it was cliquey and full of regulars, so I just never went in," she says. "I went to Jamo's and Hi-Hat instead. It's funny, though, because now I sometimes tell people I lived on Pulaski Street and never went into Wolski's and they act like I committed a crime."


Talkbacks

atomhammer | April 25, 2010 at 7:35 a.m. (report)

Wolski's is so fantastically overrated its almost like some sorta fascinating anthropological study Ms. Mead made in Polynesia or something. The place is cramped, poorly lit, serves shitty beer, charges way too much for it, has virtually no parking, and wouldn't get the time of day from ANY yuppies if they didn't all suddenly own all the property on Commerce Street. It's the worst of the two dozen or so bars on or near Brady Street. It's famous because it's famous. Like Vuarnet t-shirts in the eighties. Or beanie babies in the nineties. When someone brags about closing Wolski's, the only nice thing about it is that I instantly know that they're a poseur hipster who wants to look like they're a Milwaukeean.

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Z_boy | April 23, 2010 at 1:36 p.m. (report)

"I just don't let stupid little things bother me ..." Said the man who insists on replying to a thread that is already several days old and no one cares about. LOL! Good one, ROCKee!

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milROCKeeguy | April 23, 2010 at 8:23 a.m. (report)

Wrong again...I'm not bitter and I don't smoke. I just don't let stupid little things bother me when I'm out having fun. Nice try though.

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Z_boy | April 23, 2010 at 7:40 a.m. (report)

milROCKeeguy: Spoken like a true bitter smoker. Talk about a cliched comeback. LOL!

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milROCKeeguy | April 22, 2010 at 10:04 p.m. (report)

Actually Zboy...you're wrong here...I actually think it's funny that everytime OnMilwaukee does an article about a bar or restaurant, someone has to make a comment about smoking. Yes, we know you don't like it, get over it, by July 10th, everything will be fine. Maybe by then the people might not make stupid comments that don't relate directly an the article. Wow, it's amazing that you haven't gone to places because of the yucky smoke. Grow up, maybe after a couple of flinstone vitamins, you might be a Zman one day.

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