The legend of Brew City Barbecue comes to an ignoble end Thursday with the Mequon restaurant shutting its doors, most likely for the final time.
Dennis Eisenhauer, the current owner, notified employees on Wednesday that Thursday would be the last day. According to employees they were told that traffic at the restaurant wouldn't support the restaurant.
Brew City had an incredible history among Milwaukee bars and restaurants.
It was started in the mid-80s by legendary barman Tom Shepard and paved the way for the resurgence of Water Street as a mecca for revelers, cocktail hour and great barbecue. Shepard was a magic force in Milwaukee with successful restaurants throughout the area.
He modeled his ribs after those sold at Speed Queen, a legendary Milwaukee restaurant. They were Texas-style ribs, a little tough to the bone, not the fall off the bone so popular elsewhere in the area.
But tastes and time change lots of things and before long, financial problems forced Shepard to sell his Downtown location and move to a more serene location in Mequon.
That restaurant enjoyed minor success but never recreated the halcyon days of the Water Street spot.
Eisenhauer said Thursday morning that he just couldn't keep the place running after several bad months.
"November was about 50 percent from a normal November," he said. "Then the Christmas parties were much smaller, with so many companies laying people off. And that hurt a lot. We got to February and it was getting harder and harder to keep the doors open. It's a shame. I loved this place."
One of Milwaukee's best known and popular bartenders, he said he was going to spend a couple of weeks getting the place ready for the landlord to show, and then "I'm going to have to go get a job."
I stopped in there once after the new owner took over. There was nothing that made want to come back and I never did. Too bad, it could be a nice place. Mequon needs good restaurants.
My love for Tom Shepard aside, Brew City was so much more to me than a job. It was my home where I met some of the best people in the world. I never could have imagined way back in 1991 that this job I was starting would have such an impact on me. Now, all these years later, I can't imagine what it would have been like without it.
A restaurant can be a beautiful thing when done right. I'd like to thank Tom Shepard for bringing together a great group of people and doing it right.
RIP Tom. RIP Brew City BBQ. You'll both be forever in my heart.
I used to love the downtown BrewCity BBQ! I had no idea the one in Mequon was the same owner and I had no idea they were even still in business. I went there a few times once to sit down and a couple more times I got takeout. But there was just something off on the ribs. Quality had really gone downhill. So I didn't go back. I wish him well in the future.
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