Bartender of the week

Joe Brehm of This Is It

By Sarah Mankowski
Posted: Sept. 8, 2005

It seems as if time has stood still when you walk into the unmarked bar on Wells Street across from Real Chili. The gold-flecked mirrors and the black leather booths that line the red-carpeted walls are hallmarks of what owner Joe Brehm describes as "a true cocktail lounge." The only immediate clue that you're not in the '70s is the neon-rainbow Miller Lite Pride sign.

Sitting at a small, round table under a hanging stained-glass lamp, Brehm dispelled the mystery behind the bar's name.

"My mom, June, started it by herself in 1968. She was running a supper club with her partner and wanted more of a cocktail lounge. She saw the place and said, "This is it - we're not going anywhere else."

Even though This Is It is mainly a gay bar, there are heterosexual customers, too.

"It's a wonderful place for people to meet and talk. People can relax and be themselves and have a good time," he said.

He enjoys photography, and pictures of Milwaukee are hung around the bar. He takes photos of customers that are shown on a slide show set up on a TV by the bar.

"I've had so much fun meeting and talking to people, I can't wait to meet them all over again."

Favorite drinks to make "Cosmos and Bloody Marys. I think we make a great Bloody Mary."

What he likes most about tending bar "It's nice to have the chance to really make people happy. It's a wonderful reward."

Most unusual drink request "A guy would come in and order a scotch and tonic with lime. After two years, I finally got up the courage to ask him if it was any good. Not at all,' he replied. It's awful.' So why do you drink it?' I asked. He answered, Because if I drank what I liked, I'd be having one every 10 minutes. It takes me over an hour to finish one of these.'"