History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - People - Bios

Jerry S. Breiling


October 20, 2023
Primary Involvements:

Bartender, Bar manager, Bar Owner




Jerry S. Breiling, owner (with his lover Serge) of the KRUZ bar, died unexpectedly on October 20, 2023. Jerry had long been well known within the gay bar business, having bartended at such iconic bars as the Wreck Room, M&M Club, and finally Harbor Room. With his lover of (then) 7 years Serge Pellicelli, he then opened the bar that had formerly been known as Gargoyles and then South Water Street Docks as "KRUZ" bar in November 2006.

Breiling was interviewed by Quest magazine at KRUZ bar's first anniversary in November 2007. That interview reads:

    A FIRST ANNIVERSARY CHAT with KRUZ's Jerry Breiling; Interview by Mike Fitzpatrick

    November 25 marked the first anniversary of the opening of Kruz for business and life partners Jerry BIeiling and Serge Bemtelli. "Basically a man's bar," according to longtime banender and manager Breiling, Kruz is a "fun, clean, comfortable place for everyone to come." He dispels the notion that "we're not necessarily a leather-levi bar." "We're a 'people bar' with all types and walks of life coming in here," Breiing told Quest.

    Breiling has a long history of involvement with the city's gay bars. "I started working at the Wreck Room when I was 18 or 19, probably one of the youngest bartenders they ever had." Breiling said. And "probably one of the smallest they ever had" he quipped. The others were "all big and beefy boys," he said. "They gave me a chance to prove myself to them and I ended up being the manager there for five or six years."

    Breiling has also worked at the Harbor Room, and M & M's.

    Breiling loves running Kruz. "I love the business. which makes a big difference for me," Breiling said.

    Breiling has seen a lot of changes in the Milwaukee gay bar scene over the years. "from my first being out, it's a lot different now," he said. "Partially, I think it's because of the Internet. The old-fashioned way was come to the bar and meet somebody. Now you can do that on the Internet."

    "The younger generation has a different agenda,"Breiling said. "It's less cruisy. People come (to Kruz) mostly to socialize. We've got a lot of things going on- dart leagues, baseball teams, a couple of bowling teams."

    Decor has changed as well. "Back in the (old days), everything was always dark. There were never any windows in any bars. Now you can actually see the person you're talking to versus the Braille technique," Breiling joked. "Back in the day, you went out to cruise, that's why we call (our bar) Kruz!"

    Other factors have impacted the bar scene as well, Breiling feels. "The changes in the drunk driving laws: drunk driving is now a big issue." he said. "Before we'd say (to someone who had a few too many) 'Get in your car and get home!' Not any more."

    The mainstreaming of the LGBT community has also impacted the gay bar scene. "You don't necessarily have to go to a gay bar to have a good time any more." Breiling said. "Everything is gay-friendly now- pretty much."

    Recent changes in ownership have also impacted the Milwaukee gay bar scene, Breiling feels. "Look at the whole Third Ward: with M & M's and Wreck Room gone- that was the start of the changing over," he said. "People expect more from the bars now- with (drink) specials and special events."

    Breiling's 'silent partner' is also his life partner of eight years. When he's not doing his day job as a software developer, Serge Bellitelli works behind the scenes. "Far behind." Bellitelli joked. "I do the bookkeeping and the accounting."

    On Kruz's first anniversary, Breiling is thankful for those who have supporfed him "throughout his career" in the bar business. "Everybody seems to know who I am, though I wish I could say I could remember everyone (I've met) by name- It's been a sea of people." he said. "I love my job: I get paid for entertaining!"

At the time of his death, Jerry and partner Serge continued to operate KRUZ bar.

Breiling's obituary read in part:

    It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Jerry S. Breiling, who left us on Friday, October 20, 2023. Jerry, 63, touched the lives of many and will be profoundly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

    Jerry was survived by his long-time love and business partner, Serge Pellicelli, who held a special place in his heart. He is also survived by a sister and five brothers and other relatives.

    Jerry was not only a beloved family member but also a respected figure in the LGBT Milwaukee Community. He was known for his caring and nurturing nature, always looking out for his people. His kindness and compassion left a lasting impact on the many lives he touched.

    The staff of KRUZ bar, Jerry's many friends, and loyal KRUZ customers all hold cherished memories of him. He will be remembered for his warm and welcoming presence, and the love and care he bestowed upon those around him.

    Jerry and Serge wished to extend their heartfelt gratitude to Nancy Breiling, the compassionate team at Aurora Hospital Home Care, the dedicated medical professionals at the Medical College of Froedtert Hospital, and the caring staff at Froedtert who supported him over the years.

    We will forever cherish the love that Jerry shared with us and the profound impact he made on our lives.

A visitation and celebration of Jerry's life was held at Northshore Funeral Services on Saturday, November 11th, 2023. Donations in Jerry’s memory were requested to be made to Froedtert Hospital Foundation.

KRUZ bar continued in operation after Breiling's death, with his partner Serge Pellicelli running it alone.

Breiling interviewed on KRUZ bar's first anniversary
(see text above)
(Quest vol. 14-19, Nov. 2007)
Breiling quoted on new law going into effect banning smoking in bars
(Wis. Gazette vol. 1-17, July 2010)

Breiling (on right) With partner Serge
(Quest cover, vol. 14-19, Nov. 2007)

Breiling (on right) With partner Serge
at Kruz Holiday Party
(Quest vol. 20-01, Dec. 2013)

Credits: Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: November-2023.

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