Morris "Morry" Katz – who for many years operated the popular Morry’s On Prospect bar on Milwaukee’s East Side – passed away on Wednesday, May 9, at the age of 85.
Katz – who was born Jan. 20, 1933 – opened Morry’s at 2201 N. Prospect Ave. – currently home to Vintage, and which before that housed Vox – in 1966 in what, since 1934, had been The Prospect Inn.
Morry Katz, above at left, and below at right, in a pair of undated photographs
provided to OnMilwaukee by his family.
Katz remodeled the bar and it quickly became popular. On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, former OnMilwaukee scribe Damien Jaques – then writing for the Milwaukee Journal – said, "If you are a single person in your 20s or early 30s and live or hang around on the East Side, you know about Morry’s. Other singles meeting spots come and go but Morry Katz’s corner bar has to turn them away at times because business is so good."
Katz had run a number of bars before opening Morry’s – including the Celebrity Club on 12th and Walnut and The Links Lounge – but it is his namesake venue for which he is still remembered.
As Jaques pointed out back in ‘76, Morry’s had no bands or DJ. It served sandwiches but didn’t make a lot of noise about its food. The decor was nice but understated, Damien wrote.
"I try to attract nice people," Katz told Jaques.
"The greatest advertising in the world is still word of mouth. There are people who want to be entertained and people who have the ability to entertain themselves. At Morry’s we provide the environment for those who entertain themselves."
Morry's was well-known for the many promotions it did, said his daughter-in-law, Wanda Varela-Katz.
"People came over for the St. Patrick's Day celebration to buy green bagels and green beer and all the St. Patrick's Day hoopla," she said. "It was kind of a funny thing for a Jewish guy to have his biggest day of the year (that day)."
The bar also had a very diverse clientele, she said, drawing judges, doctors, lawyers and notable athletes.
"Many people over the years who met up and ended up getting married from Morry's came back to thank him," she added.
Katz had bought the building in the early 1970s, according to Varela-Katz.
The bar was expanded into the space to the west in the late 1970s, which led Katz to change the name to Morry's Off Prospect, though the original name is the one that has endured.
In 1982, Katz's son opened a bar next to Morry's called Farfel's. It later became the Celebrity Club, which was closed by then-owner Mary Sherman on Dec. 31, 1995.
Morry’s also closed in 1995 and Katz sold the building in 2000.
Varela-Katz said that Morry was, "a huge sports fan ... every single sport. (He) loved politics, Friday services at temple, family time and sharing memories from his popular Morry's days."
I ran into Katz – who lived in Shorewood – a few months ago at Siefert Elementary School – where his daughter-in-law is the principal – when we were both there to read with children.
When Varela-Katz introduced us, I told him I remembered Morry’s and he smiled. We chatted a bit and I had hoped to see him again and talk some more at the next read-a-thon. But that was not to be.
Deepest condolences to his family, which includes nine great-grandchildren.
Services for Katz will be held at Congregation Shalom, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., in Fox Point, on Monday, May 14 at 1:30 p.m.
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 an episode of TV's "Party of Five," 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.