By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jun 11, 2010 at 1:11 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

The plug will be pulled on live music at Quarters, the venerable Riverwest club that's been the site for local and regional alternative and underground bands to show their chops for more than two decades.

Quarters management decided to withdraw its request this week to renew its live music license in the face of losing the bar altogether.

Quarters, 900 E. Center St., was the scene of a deadly shooting in March and the bar closed voluntarily for 42 days to put together a new business plan to deter unruly elements from hanging out at the place.

Part of that plan was to keep having live music, but as a compromise Cherissa Fischer, daughter of owner Dan Fischer and the bar manager, agreed to drop the live music license to save the bar. In the end the committee recommended a 30-day suspension of the tavern license with no renewal for live music.

Neighborhood resident Vince Bushell, who owns the Riverwest Currents newspaper and is a long-time member of the Riverwest Neighborhood Association, told the committee that the bar should be closed.

"There are eight bars in the area and no shots were fired there," he said. "None of the other establishments feel the need to have metal detectors."

Janice Christensen, who works for Bushell as editor of the Riverwest Currents but didn't tell the committee that, echoed his wont to close the bar.

"The fact that there was no warning is of great concern to me," she said of the March shooting, where one young man was left dead on the sidewalk in front of the club. The man had previously been in the club, but was shot in an altercation outside.

As part of the new plan, the Fischers are going to have metal detectors at the door and increased security, even though the gun in the incident was not brought into the club.

"It's clear a large criminal element felt comfortable in this bar," said district Ald. Nik Kovac.

The Quarters decision sadly comes the same week as the news of the cancer death of James "Tess" Tessier, a renowned Riverwest drummer who spent cumulative years playing in various combos at Quarters.

I bartended at Quarters in the late 1980s and saw many small touring acts pass through the doors of the tiny and gritty club, sometimes playing to crowds of 10 people. Nonetheless, they were bands that owner Dan Fischer had no problems taking a chance on filling the place. He gave bands a venue in this town that would otherwise not exist. It was for that attitude from Fischer that the place became affectionately known as "Dan Fischer's Rock Palace."

It was a shoestring operation at best then, with only one type of beer on tap -- Andecker -- despite having several tap handles suggesting there was a selection of more than one.

The full Common Council considers the committee recommendation next week.

Expensive seats: The City of Milwaukee will pay $20,000 for busting up a gay play five years ago.

The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, Inc., produced a theatrical performance in August 2005 known as "Naked Boys Singing," but police showed up at the 2nd Street venue and shut the show down, saying the group lacked the proper license. It was later determined that the group's non-profit status allowed it to perform without one. The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, Inc., sued the city for discrimination. The city attorney's office recommended the council approve a $20,000 settlement.

We can't dance if we want to: The under-21 dance club Sugar, 126 E. Mineral St., faces a 30-day suspension after several hearings on what to do with the place. Neighbors in the largely industrial area surrounding the place, complained that the club causes severe traffic issues and its patrons create trouble outside the non-alcohol place. District Ald. Jim Witkowiak wanted the place closed altogether.

The club kept coming in front of the Licenses Committee because members continued to deadlock on what punishment to mete out for the club. A 30-day suspension was eventually approved.

Homeless in New Berlin: Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines has weighed in on the affordable housing development that has turned into somewhat of a black eye for New Berlin.

A battle is being waged in the Waukesha County suburb over whether the city should allow lower income apartments to be built where plans once were written for high-end housing. State tax credits are being used by a developer in order to build a project that includes apartments for "workforce" people who make about $35,000 a year.

Hundreds of people continue to show up at city meetings expressing opposition to the idea, saying low income workers would bring crime into their pastoral community. Race-baiting and general stereotypes have become commonplace among the arguments. Talk radio squawkers have also raised their anti-low-income ire.

Hines commented that New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero was aggressive in getting water from Milwaukee for New Berlin, noting that part of the agreement was that the city take a look at making more lower income housing available. While the mayor initially supported the project, he changed his mind after public outcry. He even referred to some opponents as "bigoted and prejudiced."

Hines says there should be no connection between lower income wages and crime.

"Affordable housing is not code for slum, ghetto or crime. ... From Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, the redemptive rags-to-riches story is not just for U.S. presidents -- it is our national narrative," he said in a release. "Just because a person happens to have a little less money, doesn't mean that person is morally bankrupt."

Various New Berlin panels are hearing the matter due to zoning changes.

Scott scores: Good feelings abound in Scott Walker's campaign for governor. This week, it announced a poll showed the Milwaukee county exec with a 20-point lead in the GOP race for the Statehouse over his opponent, former Congressman Mark Neumann.

Walker's pollsters, The Tarrance Group, reports Walker with a 45 percent to 25 percent lead if the election were held today, essentially unchanged since a poll in March. Undecideds came in at 30 percent.

"Walker receives solid majorities among key subgroups of the electorate including base GOP voters, tea party movement voters, pro-life voters, those who are very conservative and those most likely to go to the polls," reports the pollsters.

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.