A major part of this movement was the straight edge scene; kids that went to clubs to dance and listen to their music, but who didn’t smoke and eschewed drugs and alcohol.
As a result, alcohol-free clubs with clear air and juice bars sprang up. Milwaukee’s contribution was the short-lived Yano’s, a precursor to the current Milwaukee Street club scene, located at 727 N. Milwaukee St., from January to April 1985.
Attorney Peter Flessas -- then a young musician in a punk bank called NRK -- opened the club with help from his dad, Peter Sr. Now, more than 20 years after its demise, Flessas is working to document the club’s history.
“I'm planning to publish through blurb.com a coffee table book about Yano's,” he says. “The book will be chronological and document the four short months that the club existed, using posters, photos and commentary from local musicians and former patrons. The tentative title is ‘Kids, Pepsi & Punk Rock’.”
Yano’s first gig was Jan. 12, 1985 and featured Flessas’ NRK and Disdain. By the time Out of Order and J.U.A. closed the place on April 20 of the same year, the no-frills, third-floor club had hosted Naked Raygun, Madison’s Tar Babies, Dr. Know, Milwaukee’s The Crusties (seen in the photo above, taken at a March 2, 1985 show) and Die Kreuzen, The Dead Milkmen and a host of others.
Having been a patron on a number of occasions -- the Naked Raygun show was a killer! -- I remember Yano’s as a place where punks of, literally, all ages could enjoy music together.
With the drinking age seemingly constantly on the rise at the time (first it jumped to 19, then to 21), there were few places teen punks could see bands. And the shows at Yano’s were early enough that kids could make it home before curfew.
But Milwaukee’s establishment appeared terrified of any gathering of young people, and it seemed almost written in the stars that Yano’s was doomed to fail. It was just going too well.
At that final show on April 20, Milwaukee Police arrived to shut the club down after reports of overcrowding. About a third of the reported 150 club-goers, it was said, refused to leave the scene at 10 p.m., and were, in the words of the morning newspaper, allegedly “roughed up by baton-wielding police officers.”
A newspaper report quoted Flessas Sr., also an attorney, as saying, “I saw four officers pick up one kid and throw him up against a wall. There’s a blood spot on the wall.”
An officer countered that, “We’re not about to go in and start hitting a bunch of kids just to get them to leave. It’s a matter of perception and I think it’s certainly being overplayed.”
While newspapers reported that several of the youths were treated at Columbia Hospital for cuts and bruises, then-police chief Robert J. Ziarnik suggested the injuries were due to dancing.
“I’ve heard that people can get hurt that way, too,” he told the Journal.
In an editorial that ran a few days later, Joel McNally wrote, with tongue firmly in cheek:
“Now that Yano’s has been cleared by force, the city can be expected to use every possible ordinance and building code to keep it closed. The decent people of Milwaukee can never feel truly safe until the city has been rid of kids and their vile gatherings.”
He was right. Despite a protest by about 50 kids outside the Reuss Federal Plaza, Yano’s was shuttered and all ages gigs became rare again, forcing kids to break the law by getting fake IDs or sneaking into clubs via back doors. Once in, they were free to drink, smoke and stay out well beyond curfew.
Flessas the younger is on the lookout for anything relating to his old club for the book, which he hopes to publish online at blurb.com by the end of the year.
“I'm currently in the process of tracking down materials and people for comments,” he says. “I'm looking for people who had been to Yano's to contribute.”
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published July 28, 2015
Some details of the plan for the new development in the trio of National Ace Hardware buildings on 4th and McKinley have emerged, right as plans for a new arena and entertainment district across the street have taken steps forward.
Published July 25, 2015
One of the Milwaukee area's most interesting parks is a bit off the beaten path, but it's worth making tracks to Lizard Mound County Park in Farmington, just north of West Bend in Washington County. A wooded path twists and turns through 28 Native American effigy mounds, including the one shaped like a huge lizard which gives the park its name.
Published July 24, 2015
Green Lake is a place of superlatives. Here are eight of the many reasons to fall in love with Green Lake, which is an easy 90-minute drive from Milwaukee.
Published July 24, 2015
What a long strange trip it was. While theaters like the Downer and Oriental have venerable histories as long-running cinema houses, consider, if you will, the the more varied history of the now-dilapidated State Theater, 2616 W. State St. Originally a movie theater, the State has served a number of purposes - rock venue, prudish dance hall and strip club - in its nearly 100-year history.
Published July 22, 2015
There were about 500 people on hand to watch U2 at The Palms on April 15, 1981. The show was part of the Irish band's first U.S. tour. Here's a look back...
Published July 21, 2015
Come with me to see the progress on the restoration of The Pabst Mansion's third floor and also peek into the basement and attic, and experience the view from the roof of this Milwaukee landmark.
Published July 17, 2015
Milwaukee neighborhoods were once awash in movie theaters, as hard as that may be to imagine these days when you can count the number of non-googleplex cinemas in the city limits on one hand. While many are lost, a few remain. At 3804 W. Vliet St. is a former longtime carpet store that's been closed the past few years. But, originally, the building was home to The Lyric Theater, which operated from 1917 to 1952.
Published July 14, 2015
In 2012, I toured the surviving Alexander Eschweiler-designed Agricultural College buildings on the County Grounds, when their roofs gaped open to the stars - and the elements - and weeds encircled their exteriors. Despite talk of tearing them down, and an ongoing battle to save them from demolition, four of the buildings survive, even as six new apartment buildings are rising around them.
Published July 14, 2015
The WMA managed to get an alternative teacher-licensing track included in the omnibus that allows graduates from a program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, (MACTE) to apply for a Wisconsin state teaching license to teach in a public or charter Montessori school.
Published July 13, 2015
Last week, Milwaukee lost a talented, dedicated, hard-working historian. But when former Italian Community Center president Mario Carini died on July 7, at the age of 78, Milwaukee's Italian community lost a force of nature.