Very little is known about The Regency East, except that it was a semi-elegant bar in a less-than-elegant neighborhood 'where car break-ins and muggings were common'.
Even the address is confused in the scarce LGBT documentation. The first 'gay' listing we've been able to locate is in the 1964 national 'gay guide' "Directory 43", where it is listed as being at 1400 N. Water St. But all later guides typically listed it as being at 1840 N. Water St., the current site of the Red Lion Pub. A single 1970 national gay guide (Bob Damron's) lists it at 1758 N. Water St, so we speculate that the bar may have moved around a bit, or addresses were given to these national directories incorrectly at times. However, everyone who remembers the bar places it in what was to become well known by Milwaukeeans as 'the Trocadero' bar, which is the 1758 N. Water St. location which we believe to be accurate.
According to various contributors, the bar may have originally been run by George Defenbach(sp). It's said that while the level of alcohol in bottles went down as drinks were poured throughout the day, by night shift all the bottles were full again, and thus drinks became tastless & business went elsewhere. Another contributor remembers it being run by Dick Shannon, and they say one of his bartenders was named George, who opened the Ten Hundred East Bar about 1970. (Are these the same 'George'?)
The building was built in 1890 by the Schlitz Brewing Company as one of the earliest examples of brewery-owned bars. The location already had a growing East side neighborhood of residences, but also was within easy walking distance of a number of tanneries (including Galun right across the street), providing a ready customer base of thirsty workers. It had a steady series of different names (such as Pleasant House, East Side Bar, Young Bachelor's Tavern, and Mr. B's), sometimes as bar and other times including food.
An excellent history of the building was the subject of one of Bobby Tanzilo's 'Urban Spelunking' articles on the OnMilwaukee website. In that article, Tanzilo indicates that the Regency East Lounge was run by Richard (Dick) Shannon from 1965 until about 1970.
After it was the gay Regency East Lounge, the building became well known first as 'Under the Bridge' and then 'Trocadero' (see above article). During the year 2000, the upstairs (then known as 'Red Light') once again became 'gay' on Thursday nights as 'Babylon', one of a series of traveling or pop-up LGBT venues collectively known as 'Pump!'.
More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it. (The building has housed the popular mainstream bar and restaurant "Trocadero Gastrobar" since 2001.)
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!
George Defenbach(sp) then ran it. By night shift all bottles were full again. Drinks became tastless & business went elsewhere. On closing George was given a dieffenbachia plant. Closed early 70's. Forced out to make room for a bar owner that was losing his bar to make way for the freeway. It became a sports bar.
I can't add too much to the history except that when I started going there (in 1966), it was run by a guy by the name of Dick Shannon. One of his bartenders was named George, who opened the Ten Hundred East Bar about 1970.
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Last updated: March-2022.
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