the influx of bars, restaurants and new residents to downtown
Milwaukee in recent years, the area — which once resembled a ghost
town after 5 p.m. — has transformed into a vibrant entertainment
district. But along with the hip clubs and eateries, downtown
Milwaukee’s growing nightlife scene has also presented
In a proactive
effort to improve Milwaukee’s "nighttime economy,"
business owners, residents and city officials banded together last
year to implement several initiatives to improve the safety and
attractiveness of downtown Milwaukee’s nightlife.
Milwaukee’s nighttime economy represents more than just bars and
restaurants," says Beth Nicols, executive director of the
Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District 21. "By tapping
into our after 5 potential, we can help foster a better sociable
economy that adds to the tax base, creates jobs, attracts the creative
class and retains students and faculty talent."
nightlife initiative grew out of a $20,000 study commissioned by
Milwaukee Downtown in the fall of 2010. The study, led by Responsible
Hospitality Institute, a California-based nonprofit consultant group
known for helping cities manage safe and vibrant hospitality
districts, focused on the East Town, Westown, Historic Third Ward and
Brady Street entertainment districts.
Nicols, the study examined six core elements: entertainment,
transportation, quality of life, public safety, multiuse sidewalks and
assessment resulted in several proposed action steps, including:
• Creating a
marketing campaign to promote existing transportation and public
transportation and food hubs to help disperse crowds when the bars
a downtown neighborhood association to give residents a platform to
address not only concerns of the neighborhood, but also recognize
the lighting and overall atmosphere of the corridor between the Third
Ward and downtown.
better training for security personnel at downtown venues.
Downtown began implementing its action plan last summer, Nicols says
downtown Milwaukee has become a more sociable place for residents and
visitors alike. Among the strategies put into play is Code R.E.D., a
pilot police program, which puts more officers on the downtown streets
on weekend nights.
among police officers, residents and business owners have vastly
improved," says Nicols of the safety initiative. Police officers
assigned to patrol the downtown entertainment districts also received
additional training on how to deal with a younger crowd.
focused on bringing food vendors into downtown at night, enticing
patrons leaving bars to stop and eat. The strategy has eased traffic
congestion and helped offset the effects of alcohol consumption, says
Claude Krawczyk, chairman of Downtown Neighbors Association of
Milwaukee, a neighborhood association that grew out of the RHI study
probably one of the best things we’ve done," Nicols says of
bringing street food vendors to downtown entertainment districts like
5 Ways to
Enhance Your Downtown Experience
1. Take the
trolley. During the summer months, downtown Milwaukee offers a trolley
service with a loop that runs from the East Side to The Historic Third
Ward. With 20-minute headways, the trolley is easy public
transportation for grabbing a bite to eat, heading to a show or doing
a little shopping. And it’s inexpensive, too. Rides are $1 per
person, round trip. The Milwaukee Trolley Loop operates 11 a.m. to 9
p.m. Wednesday to Saturday through Sept. 8. www.ridemtcs.com
noshing. What to do when hunger strikes after a night of bar hopping?
Belly up to one of the food trucks or food carts that line Water
Street at closing time. Street food vendors like Streetza and Haute
Taco have become popular weekend fixtures on the downtown
thoroughfare. In addition to satisfying that after-bar urge to munch,
the food trucks serve an alternate purpose, helping to quell the mass
exodus of patrons at bar time.
3. Meet that
special someone. Downtown Milwaukee’s sizable bar scene, which
attracts 30,000 to 80,000 patrons on any given Thursday, Friday or
Saturday evening, has landed the city the distinction of being listed
among the top 10 places in the United States for singles, according to
4. Cheese and
beer (’nuff said). Where else but Milwaukee can you find a bar that
serves beer-and-cheese flights? The Cheese Bar, located inside the
Wisconsin Cheese Mart, 1048 N. Old World Third St., offers cheese
lovers the opportunity to explore the store’s extensive menu of
artisan cheeses, along with a huge selection of Wisconsin-made beers
and highly recommended wines. A sample flight pairs Wisconsin blue
Affinée, Gruyčre, sharp cheddar, and Bellavitano with Sprecher
5. The beat goes
on. There’s no shortage of live music venues in downtown Milwaukee.
Low-key venues like Nuovo Centanni, a piano bar on Water Street, let
you mingle martini in hand. If your music tastes lean more toward
classic rock and roll, try the Bad Genie Rock Lounge on Jefferson.