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City of Milwaukee Closes Penthouse Lounge

After seven-item police report, Common Council votes for non-renewal of the northside bar.

By Sophie Bolich - Nov 14th, 2022 12:18 pm



Penthouse Lounge, a northside bar at 3621 N. Teutonia Ave. in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, has closed after just one year in business.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously on Nov. 1 against license renewal for the bar.

A seven-item police report reviewed by the council included instances of the bar operating without a license, being open after legal closing time, preparing and selling food without a license, operating without a licensed bartender and unauthorized public entertainment including strippers and DJs.

Applicant Tanisha Kelly and bar manager Shaun Thomas appeared before the Licenses Committee on Oct. 18 for a hearing to address the report as part of the annual liquor license renewal process for the bar, which first opened in November 2021.

At the hearing, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs expressed great concern over the lengthy report, and said the business has exhibited “red flags.” Ald. Coggs represents District 6, where Penthouse is located.

“I have no faith in the ability of this applicant to continue to manage this establishment in a way that does not impede upon the quality of life of the people who live and work around this location,” Ald. Coggs said at the Oct. 18 hearing. “And for that reason more than any other, I cannot continue to support this license.”

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Alderman Scott Spiker raised questions in regards to two police reports indicating that the establishment was running a food program without proper licensure. On Feb. 16, Milwaukee Police conducted a license premise check and “observed menus for food such as Wing Wednesdays.” The bar manager told police that food was being brought in, but “officers believed the food being offered at the bar were [sic] actually being prepared in an upstairs apartment.”

On April 22, police again conducted a license premise check. In an upstairs area, officers observed a “makeshift commercial kitchen with fryers and freezers full of food,” according to the report. The bar was issued a citation in both cases.

Thomas, the bar’s manager, continually denied that the makeshift kitchen had any connection to the downstairs business, and said that he has no access to the upstairs area.

“We do not cook food here,” he said, though he told the council, “we sometimes have food brought in.”

“Again, I do not go upstairs, I do not go in the basement,” Thomas added.

Milwaukee Police Officer Keith Garland also attended the hearing. In his testimony, Garland said he was present on Feb. 16, and has body cam footage that can prove the findings of the police report.

“I also observed a lot of the findings…the fryers, the refrigerators full of food and the table set up for gambling,” he said.

Garland added that he has received “a lot of these complaints from anonymous citizens,” who report over-capacity, stripping, gambling, shots fired and robberies — all tied to the bar.

Both Kelly and Thomas denied that the bar has recruited strippers, despite a Feb. 22 police report in which a woman told officers she was recruited to strip at Penthouse. The woman, who was treated for battery after being assaulted by two other dancers, stated that it was her first time dancing at the bar, but there are strippers every Monday, according to the police report.

Thomas said he has never recruited strippers, but told the council there have been photo and video shoots at the bar “with females in small clothing” that he said could be considered “inappropriate but legal.”

“So if I were to tell you that I know for a fact — because I know people that have been there and see with their own eyes — that there is in fact strippers, you still would stand before me today, under oath, and tell me that to your knowledge there is no stripping ever at the Penthouse,” said Ald. Coggs, specifically addressing the applicant, Kelly.

“To my knowledge, yes, I haven’t seen it,” Kelly responded.

In a final statement, Ald. Coggs said she doesn’t believe that Kelly is the real owner of Penthouse.

“I don’t believe that Tenisha really runs this spot, I don’t believe that there are not strippers there on a regular basis, I don’t believe that food is not being served and prepared upstairs,” Ald. Coggs said. “But beyond my belief, what the police report exemplifies…is one simple thing… that this establishment is not being managed properly.”

Neither Kelly nor Thomas were present at the Nov. 1 meeting of the full Common Council. Urban Milwaukee reached out to Kelly, who did not comment.

The final night of service for Penthouse Lounge was on Friday, Nov. 11.

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