By Drew Olson Special to Published May 18, 2006 at 5:44 AM

During the past 11 ½ years, Chris Leffler has welcomed thousands of thirsty customers into Leff's Lucky Town, the cozy tavern he operates at 7208 W. State St. in the heart of Wauwatosa.

No matter how busy the joint gets -- and it is usually crowded with softball players, sports fans and other suburban socialites -- Leffler will always find an open barstool and a cold beer for one special out-of-town visitor who has yet to make an appearance; the guy who inspired the name of the bar in the first place.

That would be Bruce Springsteen.

"I think it would be fun to meet him," Leffler, 37, said on a recent night at the bar, which is wedged between a barber shop and a service station on a tiny parcel across from Hart Park. "I'd love to tell him how that song ('Lucky Town,' from the under appreciated 1992 album of the same name) inspired me to try and do something big."

Housed in a turn-of-the-century building that Leffler said served as a movie theater in the days before "talkies" and a shoe store that fronted a Prohibition-era speakeasy, Leff's has become home base for a large swath of customers from Wauwatosa and beyond.

In addition to regular guests like "Tosa Ted" and "B-ski," (just go in and you'll see them), Leff's draws students from the Medical College of Wisconsin, teachers from nearby public schools, nurses from Froedert Hospital and neighborhood folk who want to watch the Brewers game with cold beer and hot wings. If you venture through the doors on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or around Christmas, you may feel as though you've entered a dozen Wauwatosa East / West reunions at once.

"We get a pretty eclectic group of characters," Leffler said, surveying the scene on a recent night. "People probably think that it's a younger crowd, but it's really not the case. It's a pretty good mix."

Given the bar's proximity to Hart Park, which hosts several softball and volleyball leagues, it's never unusual to see groups of people in matching T-shirts celebrating victory or trying to ease the agony of defeat. Leff's sponsors more than 30 teams and bartenders keep track of which group consumes the most pitchers during the season. The winning team gets a special party.

"They really do support us," Leffler said of the teams. "Of course, it helps that we're right across the street."

It was after a softball game of his own more than a decade ago that Leffler was inspired to get into the bar business.

"We were coming in here after games and the place was kind of run-down," he said. "They didn't have soda in guns; they sold it in cans. We'd come in and there would be four old guys at the bar and the bartender would be sitting down with his feet up. I remember we asked for a pitcher of Michelob one time and the barrel ran out. The bartender asked us 'What else do you want?' He wouldn't even go change the barrel."

"One night, we were here trying to watch the NBA playoffs. Tony Smith (a former standout at Wauwatosa East and Marquette University) was playing and they had this TV that was straight out of 1972. I was with about five of my buddies and we started saying 'We should buy this place.' Everybody was all pumped up about it. 'Yeah, let's do it.' Then the next day, when I asked them about it -- nobody was wanted to do it any more. But, I decided to check into it."

Leffler ended up buying the business, but not the building, which belongs to his neighbor, Neso's Village Haircuts. Little by little, he renovated and improved the space. The floor was replaced; the tin ceilings were exposed; the air conditioning was upgraded.

"We've cleaned it up a bit, but there is only so much you can do when you don't own the building," he said.

Leff's recently added five wide-screen plasma TVs, which are almost always tuned to sports. The jukebox pumps out mix of songs ranging from Springsteen (go figure) to Johnny Cash, Milwaukee's own Pat McCurdy, REM, U2 and Jimmy Buffet.

The grill, which is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays (until 10 p.m. on weekends), offers standard pub fare: Burgers, wings, nachos, pizza, salads and chicken sandwiches.

Bar specials include: Bloody Sundays ($2.50 bloody Mary's from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.); High Life Mondays ($2 bottles of Miller High Life and High Life Light); Finger lickin' Tuesdays ($.25 wings from 4 p.m. to close); Mexican Wednesday ($1.50 jumbo tacos, $4 nachos and $2.50 margaritas and Corona's); Throw 'em back Thursdays (16-oz. Pabst cans for $2); Friday Fish Fry; and Saucy Saturday ($9 for a pizza and pitcher of Miller beer from 2 to 6 p.m.).

If the specials -- and the largest urinal in several municipalities -- aren't motivation enough, customers may want to drop by just to see if a certain New Jersey singer stops by. Springsteen will be playing the Bradley Center on June 14.

"I'd like to invite him in," Leffler said. "It's not a fancy place. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but his song was the inspiration for the name and we've got his picture up (near the jukebox) and we've got good people and cold beer. I think he'd like it.

Leff's Web site is The phone number is (414) 258-9886.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.