A downtown Milwaukee wedding venue owned by Pabst Theater Group would not get its operating licenses under a city panel’s new recommendation.
The Fitzgerald, under its previous ownership as Villa Filomena, for 17 years has hosted weddings and other private events at 1119 N. Marshall St.
A Pabst Theater Group affiliate bought the property in July for $1.55 million, according to state real estate records.
Pabst renamed the building, a former mansion built in 1874, as The Fitzgerald — a reference to its first owner, Great Lakes ship captain Robert Patrick Fitzgerald. And it continued to host weddings this summer.
But, that business now appears in peril after the Common Council’s Licenses Committee recommended denying a tavern license and public entertainment license for The Fitzgerald.
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That committee’s vote came Tuesday night after a public hearing that included complaints from neighbors about noise from the venue.
That vote was supported by Ald. Robert Bauman, whose district includes the venue. The full council could review the recommendation at its Oct. 11 meeting.
Pabst Theater Group Chief Executive Officer Gary Witt didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
A statement from Mario Sanfillipo, whose family operated the venue as Villa Filomena, said not allowing The Fitzgerald to operate would be “doing a huge disservice to the community and culture of Milwaukee.”
“Pabst group is a great community partner with other historic properties, maintaining them with care and love,” Sanfillipo said. “We are confident they would be good neighbors like they are in every other venue they operate.”
Bauman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he opposed the licenses for The Fitzgerald based on testimony from neighbors “and trouble with recent events.”
The Fitzgerald operates on an otherwise residential block.
“These residents have a legitimate right to quiet enjoyment,” Bauman wrote in comments to the Licenses Committee. “They elect me. I have no choice but to advocate for their concerns.”
Those comments were attached to an email from a resident at City Green, a condo building at 1111 N. Marshall St.
That resident, whose name was redacted from the official record, said they initially supported Pabst’s plans for The Fitzgerald.
“But you need to know that last night the ‘party bus trolley’ came and went through the night many times up to 11:30 p.m.,” said the email, sent to Bauman on Sept. 11.
The bus engine ran loudly and continuously when the vehicle was outside The Fitzgerald, the email said.
Other neighborhood residents complained about noise from the bus as well as noise from event guests.
Some also said they were concerned about the number of events increasing significantly under Pabst’s ownership.
Pabst, in its operating plan submitted to the committee, said any music playing outside The Fitzgerald would end by 6 p.m., with indoor music “turned down to a reasonable level” at 10 p.m. and stopped by 11 p.m.
The plan also said The Fitzgerald, along with hosting weddings, could also host ticketed cultural events, such as dance events and plays.
The venue “will not be used as a concert hall,” the plan said.
Pabst, in a July statement announcing its purchase of the property, said The Fitzgerald would expand its private events business.
Milwaukee has seen an increase in weddings outside of houses of worship — leading to recent redevelopments of several historic buildings into private event venues.
Pabst Theater Group mainly operates concert venues, including Miller High Life Theatre, Riverside Theater, Pabst Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom and the Back Room at Colectivo Coffee.