By Doug Hissom Special to Published Dec 20, 2007 at 4:06 PM
A popular North Side club would be shut down next month if the Milwaukee Common Council goes along with a unanimous recommendation by the city's Licenses Committee to shutter Club Escape, 6263 N. Teutonia.

The 700-capacity club was the scene of two major shootouts this year, including one in November in which a man was killed after club security guards fired upon his car. Ald. Ashanti Hamilton had asked the club's owner to turn in his license, but when that didn't happen he got police to initiate a revocation hearing.

Owner Thomas McNeal, who was a real estate agent before getting into the club business a few years ago, argued that the problems in the parking lot stayed in the lot and were not a result of what was happening inside the club, even though it was clear the shooters had come from the club.

His attorneys, Franklyn Gimbel and Michael Guerin, argued that holding McNeal responsible was misplaced and that the action of "thugs" should not be the impetus to shut the place down. The few incidents should not tarnish the record as a whole Gimbel said, although the club has had its license suspended in the past.

Gimbel tried to persuade the committee by noting his legacy of law in Milwaukee, including stints as a federal prosecutor and the prominent head a various civic boards. He's currently chair of the Wisconsin Center District. At one point he referred to the city attorney representing the revocation interests, as a "young man."

Assistant City Attorney Adam Stevens argued that "wild west" type shootouts were a direct hazard to the people living around the club and to people driving by. In last month's shoot-out more than 40 shots were fired. A police officer who lives in the neighborhood testified that he feared for his family's safety when the club was open.

The vote was 4-0 to close the club, with Ald. Willie Wade absent. The full Council will hear the matter Jan. 15 and the club could close immediately after the vote.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.