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This Is It was opened in 1968 by June Brehm. Its first advertising in a gay publication doesn't appear until the August 1972 issue of the GPU News however, when its ad stated "The East Side's New Food 'N' Fun Bar" and listed proprietors Mike and June.
The August 1976 issue of the local "GLIB Guide" describes the business as follows: "Popular downtown lounge busy with reserved gentlemen and then some not so reserved."
Joe Brehm, June's son, continued to operate the bar as a gay bar in relatively unaltered condition architecturally. Of course, color scheme and other changes have been made (the booths along the east wall were removed, etc.) but the bar retains it overall ambiance. While June retained ownership for over 40 years, until her death in January of 2010, her son Joe was the effective manager throughout many of those years.
Under Joe's management, the bar has the distinction of being not only one of the longest continuously running gay bar in the city, but also being a staunch supporter of the gay community. Joe was close friends with Terry Boughner and Jerry Johnson when they produced the Wisconsin Light newspaper, helping them computerize and use new technnology for typesetting, layout, email, etc. Joe and This Is It! are also often the first in line to support community causes, hosting fundraising events for the Cream City Foundation, AIDS, and other worthy causes.
Around 2010, George Schneider joined the staff of 'This Is It', and has since become part owner and manager. George brought both experience from other bars in the city and a loyal following of new customers. Together George has helped Joe modernize in small but important ways: a new paint scheme and a sign were added out front, new drink specials and promotions, and a major presence on social media (Facebook etc.). But the overall character of the bar continues unchanged- and still successful.
In 2012, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press published a book "Bottoms Up- A Toast to Wisconsin's Historic Bars & Breweries" (written by Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz). The book highlights 70 bars and breweries that have defined Wisconin as a tavern state. "This Is It" is mentioned in the text as a bar that shaped gay and lesbian bars in the state, and is one of only 6 bars in Milwaukee singled out for a 2-page writeup. The article begins in part: "In the late 1960's... Gay bars were far from common, but (June Brehm) knew a lot of gay people and wanted to create a comfortable and safe gathering place during a time when gays suffered great discrimination." (The bar has a copy of the book on hand for curious patrons.)
Through the years, Joe and now George have together kept the bar exciting, and have maintained a loyal following of old-timers as well as new blood. The bar continues to be busy on evenings when other bars' business lags, in part because it is the only gay bar in the immediate downtown area (and thus easy for visitors staying in downtown hotels to get to), but also because even the young guys new to gay life like the combination of old and new they find in the bar.
Joe Brehm passed away on April 3, 2016. Since that time, George Schneider has assumed ownership and continues to operate the bar as before. They are expanding the footprint of the bar in 2018 for the first time since its opening. And in recognition of the long-time LGBT bar, in November 2018 "rainbow crosswalks" have been installed around the nearby Cathedral Square.
Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same!
"When Joe was bartending and anyone had a question about an old movie, or song on the great jukebox, Joe knew the answer. A walking encyclopedia of so many things. I'm so honored to have befriended such a nice and supportive man. With a twinkle in his eyes. And mischievous! Many fun "theme" parties for my birthdays were had there at "Tit's" All so precious, as is he.
-- Darcie M. (aka Darcie McClarskie), via email (2017)
The bar celebrates its 50th anniversary in August 2018. (See article on the UrbanMilwaukee web site.)
Credits: Contributors via "History of Gay Milwaukee" Facebook group and Jamie Taylor.
Special thanks to Darcie L Muckler for archival photo and recollection.
Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: November-2018.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.