By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 11, 2004 at 5:34 AM

{image1}Considered the home of one of Milwaukee's best fish fries, The Brown Bottle Pub, 221 W. Galena St., in Schlitz Park, has closed, apparently with little advance notice to employees or customers.

It seems times had been tough for a while at the Brown Bottle. According to former general manager, Linda Sackett, the pub and eatery closed due to a "lack of business.

"I would say it was really a financial hardship for about a year," Sackett added. "One or two good nights doesn't sustain a whole week."

The outgoing message on the bar and restaurant's answering machine announced the closing and asked that employees, vendors and those who have banquets booked leave a message. Brown Bottle Pub ownership and Schiltz Park Leasing and Management could not be reached by press time.

One source said that a memo was circulated Tuesday to other tenants in the building about the closing but there was no explanation as to the circumstances of the shuttering.

With its German-flavored menu, remarkable old-world dining room and intimate, wood-paneled bar, the Brown Bottle Pub was a popular lunch spot and, with more than 100 beers -- including 60 in bottles and 16 on tap -- it was a great place to pass a post-work happy hour. Sometimes there was even live music to be had.

Beer fans could also be found staring slack-jawed at the extensive collection of Schlitz memorabilia detailing the history of the brewery.

"For me it was a great experience," said Sackett, who worked at the pub for 11 years. "I probably had one of the lowest turnover rates of any restaurant in the country. The people who worked there were real stable, there was good service, (customers) knew what they were coming in for.

The building formerly housed the Schlitz Brewing Company's tasting room, which opened in 1938. The hand carved woodwork and the old photos were meant to conjure up the atmosphere of a 19th century European tavern. It is rumored that the stately oak used for the interior was rescued from European estates and castles.

When Schlitz was finally shuttered in 1982, the popularity of the Brown Bottle gave it continued life and it became a full restaurant in 1986.

Sackett doesn't know what the future holds for her or her former employees and she sounds as though the news of the closing came as a shock.

"It was my total life for a long long time," she said. "I’m not really sure what I'll do. I’ve only had about a day to think about it. But my apologies go out to the employees of the Brown Bottle. We were like one big family and I know that some of them were very hurt by the generic way they were told the news of the closing. I wish it could of come from me as these people were not just my employees they were my friends and they trusted me."

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee.com for more information as it becomes available.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.