Nightclubs Closed Because of Black Patrons?

In his column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eugene Kane explores whether the race of patrons played a part in complaints against nightclub owners.

Milwaukee accused of shuttering white-owned nightclubs because of black patrons (Thinkstock)

Eugene Kane, in his column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, examines complaints by white nightclub owners that accuse the city of threatening to close their businesses because of their African-American clientele.

Milwaukee nightclub owner Robert Cesarz called to accuse the city of trying to shut down his business.

"If you want a real story about racism in downtown Milwaukee, I've got one for you!" he said in a voice mail.

After hearing he owned a club in downtown Milwaukee that catered to an African-American crowd, I had a pretty good hunch what his story was about.

Cesarz, owner of Club Bari at 628 N. Water St., wasn't the first white club owner to call with complaints that city officials and police were targeting his business due to the race of his clientele - he was just the latest.

And of course, I've had plenty of African-American club owners on the north side call with the same complaint.

The Common Council voted to shut down Club Bari and another club in Walker's Point that have been the source of complaints from neighbors and police.

According to Andrew Arena, Cesarz's attorney, the city was reacting to the color of the customers more than anything else.

"It has to do with the perception of the kind of clientele that comes to the club," said Arena, who mentioned another nearby club, 618 Live, that also catered to a hip-hop crowd and had been the subject of complaints in the past.

But Ald. Robert Bauman -- who represents the downtown district -- told me the main reason Club Bari was not renewed was because the owner had misrepresented his business when making his initial application to the Common Council for a liquor license.

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