Behind a nondescript facade on 2nd Street in Walker's Point, Bet-z Boenning has created a snug and respiting tavern. Known as Walker's Pint, this tavern can induce a sense of enjoying the now and cell phone amnesia in even the most digitally loquacious of people among us.
On sunny summer afternoons, the dusty, scuffed-up wood floors create the type of light that quietly draws out tension and sends it back to the streets. Patrons relax on comfy stools that line the long bar, while getting plenty of conversation attention from Boenning or one of her crew.
At night, the floor fades, and the tavern seamlessly transforms into what bartender Sheena Mandlman describes as an "adult playhouse." The atmosphere is "Goldilocks" style, the light is neither too bright nor too dim, the music neither too loud nor too soft, and the crowd is neither too dull nor too rowdy. Mandlman attributes the atmosphere of the tavern to the sense of patron ownership that Boenning has cultivated.
That collective ownership is very apparent in the décor that covers the wall behind the bar; the Pint collective is on the way towards a down payment with the hundreds of inscribed dollar bills that paper the wall. The inscriptions make clear the diverse crowd that has a claim on the place, with messages such as "I deserve an orgasm every day," "Vote," "30 is pretty," and "Neil Diamond Rules!" The first bill posted, a five spot, proved to be a good omen for Boenning, with the message: "The Pint Rocks -- Good Luck Ladies."
Walker's Pint is the longest-running lesbian bar currently open in Milwaukee. On Thursday, July 13, Walker's Pint celebrates its five-year anniversary of providing an easy environment for not only lesbians, but also for people of all genders and sexual identities.
As Mandlman says, the tavern attracts and welcomes any person that holds dear the basic precept of human-to-human respect. Mandlman has mixed up drinks (especially recipes that include Southern Comfort) and popped beer tops since the place opened, and credits the low employee turnover to the incredible nature of Boenning's enduring good spirit.
Boenning opened Walker's Pint to provide a casual bar atmosphere for women. Boenning's only expectation was that people would be generally happy while tipping back glasses in her tavern. Boenning reveres the fact that the Pint has provided a space where she, and many others, have developed intense and loyal friendships.
"Chosen family" is another contribution Walker's Pint offers to the gay and lesbian community of Milwaukee. Not only have the regulars connected with each other, but many have also connected with Boenning's parents.
Though her parents were nervous when she decided to purchase the bar, they have become the resident parental figures of nurturing acceptance through non-judgment. Boenning's mom, Pat, said, "The girls even call us mom and dad."
With a sweet and warm voice, Pat Boenning said of the Pint crowd, "It's our second family. There are so many beautiful spirits there."
Pat and her husband Bill stop in the tavern regularly, hold an annual big bash for Pint-goers at their lake home, offer prizes for the many fundraisers put on by the Pint, and, last year, even bought the building that houses their daughter's tavern.
The Pint also supports the community in a variety of ways. It sponsors three volleyball teams, two women's flag football teams and the U-Haulers -- a first-place-winning team in the Milwaukee gay softball league.
The Pint is in a partnership with Miller Lite, and sent a football team to the Gay Olympics.
Walker's Pint also raises money for selected charities, and Boenning allows those patron-owners to use the bar space for their own fundraising efforts. Last year, the Pint raised nearly $7,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Recently, the token "straight boy" of the Pint, who was reportedly quite blessed with hair follicles, auctioned off wax strips, each to be pulled by the highest bidder, to raise money for Leukemia research.
The July 13 anniversary party features live music by Alyssa, and DJ Funk and The Fed. There will be guest bartenders, food and drink specials. If you stop in on a less conspicuous night, you might find Boenning's alter ego, DJ iPod, mixing up some fun in the tavern playhouse.