History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Bars and Clubs

The TAZZbah Bar & Grille
Location: 1712 W. Pierce


December 2004
Sept. 1 2007

Male/ female
Bar/ restaurant


The Tazzbah bar opened in December 2004. The primary owner was Steve, who had previously been a popular bartender at the Boot Camp Saloon.

Prior to their Grand Opening party in January 2005, the bar's web site had a “What is TAZZbah?” contest, asking people to guess what the bar's name stood for. Contest entrants later got this reply: "The correct answer is... Well, there really is no word “Tazzbah”. The word is a combination of the name of one of our pets (‘Taz) and Casbah (as in 'Rock the Casbah'.)". The email was signed "The Tazzboys: Steve, Don, Tobin, Ed, Craig, and Jan". Much later one owner, Don Martinson, explained it as follows: "We had a cat named Mumtaz (the princess for whom the Taj Mahal was build), but we usually called her 'Tazz'. Then for one reason or another, the subject of the Casbah (older, native Arab quarter) came up and we combined the two into Tazzbah. Pretty much serendipity."

The bar made every attempt to be a success. The main/ front bar was a gorgeous scene: wood paneled, plants everywhere, with large windows admitting sun from the street. A beautiful terraced deck in back of the bar was a relaxing place to sit with a drink. The bar's Bloody Mary's were works of art, a meal by itself: celery, pickle, olives, beef jerkey stick, and a huge cajun-seasoned shrimp.

The bar hosted leather nights for men about once a month on Friday nights, and at first attracted a good crowd for those. Within a few months of opening, they opened their kitchen, serving excellent wraps, burgers and other sandwiches, and Friday fish frys. After about a year they also started Sunday brunch food service, first with a buffet and later with menu service only, inheriting much of the Sunday brunch traffic that had been held by the M&M Club prior to that bar's close in May 2006.

But the one negative the bar couldn't overcome was its location. It was several miles from any other gay bar, a detriment to any bar that hopes to be on the "bar hop" agenda of the sometimes fickle gay crowd. This made it a hit-or-miss destination, which to many meant bypassing it in planning for fear it would be empty when they arrived. By spring 2007 some food service was cancelled, and in July rumors of its closing were confirmed: the bar closed at the end of August 2007. (The August 2007 issue of 'OutBound Magazine' featured a full page ad reading "Thank You for Your Patronage, our Last Day of Operation is Sat. September 1st, 2007".)

One of the owners (Don Martinson) summed up the bar's history as follows:

    "There is no one reason why the Tazzbah wasn’t a success, but I often tell folks that if the bar were located someplace down on 2nd St., we would have a better chance. Location, location, location. We scoured the Walker’s Point area for some time and even made an offer on a location in WP (Walkers Point) that was advertised in InStep. But the owner changed their mind, so we were forced to look further afield. The location at 17th and Pierce St. was a dive, but ripe for rehab. I think most folks would agree that the rehab was a success, but other factors made us see that it would never catch on, located where it was. Steve had been in the service industry, including several of most popular bars at the time. I had experience in property rehab. We figured that a combination of our talents would have a reasonable chance of success. We agonized over whether to aim for a gay crowd or try to build our own, neighborhood clientele, but we had more experience in the former and were able to attract a loyal, but unfortunately, a bit too small clientele, and we had watched while others went into bankruptcy in an attempt to keep their businesses open despite the financial writing on the wall. Nonetheless, we figured no guts, no glory. So in the end, we were able to say “well we tried” rather than “if only we’d tried” and were to be able to accept the consequences and get on with our lives. The silver lining was that we made a host of good friends. Thanks to all who supported us!"

Photo of bar during remodeling
(courtesy of owner Don Martinson)
Before and After of the bar
(courtesy of owner Don Martinson)
Front of bar, August 2007
Back end of bar showing patio, August 2007
Front bar area
Front bar area
Dining area in back of bar
Photos of owners and staff
(courtesy of owner Don Martinson)

Opening Teaser

Opening Teaser

Grand Opening Notice

Tazzbah website, Nov. 2005

Credits: web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Primary writeup and photos by Don Schwamb.
Additional info and content couresty of Jamie Taylor and Don Martinson.
Last updated: December-2018.

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