Facing a familiar family business problem, East Side icon Vitucci’s closes

Owners plan to sell East North Avenue building

Vitucci's is located at1832 E. North Ave. Photo courtesy of Vitucci's

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:35 pm

Longtime tavern Vitucci’s has closed its doors on Milwaukee’s East Side.

The family-owned business first opened in 1934 at 1832 E. North Ave., and has since remained a neighborhood staple, especially for local college students, even as other East Side bars have shuttered in recent years.

Vitucci’s had been run for the past two years by general manager Angelo Vitucci, who is the great-grandson of original owner Frank Vitucci. Its closure came as Angelo decided he no longer wanted to operate the business, said co-owner Mike Vitucci.

“We decided it wasn’t in everybody’s best interest to continue to keep the business going,” said Mike Vitucci. “Going forward, we’re in a position where we don’t have anybody groomed or ready or willing or interested to really keep the business going. We’re all in a different point in our lives.”

Mike Vitucci, who is Frank’s grandson, took on part ownership about 10 or 12 years ago, he said.

He currently resides in the Chicago area, but is often confused with his cousin, also named Mike Vitucci — referred to by his family as “Milwaukee Mike Vitucci.” He owns a handful of downtown Milwaukee bar-restaurants including Belmont Tavern and Uncle Bucks near Fiserv Forum, and has not been affiliated with Vitucci’s since 2004, he said.

Vitucci and the three other family member still involved with the Vitucci’s plan to sell the building, which originally was built in the 1890s as a farmhouse. The property is currently listed on Cushman & Wakefield’s website for $1.3 million.

And there’s already been interest from current bar owners who want to take part in the resurgence of East North Avenue, Vitucci said.

“If it’s going to be sold, it looks like it will be to somebody from the community or current restaurant or bar groups or maybe somebody wants to develop the corner, buy it and tear it down, and we’re OK with that,” he said.

He explained the business was up against a changing bar and entertainment scene, both in the neighborhood and across the industry.

Other longtime college bars along North Avenue such as the Eastsider, Rascal’s and G-Daddy’s BBC have been replaced with new, more modern concepts that focus on food as much as alcohol.

“People are not just about going out to drink anymore,” he said. “We’re a neighborhood tavern without food and people are making healthier choices. They’re drinking differently and want to be entertained differently… it was a real struggle in a neighborhood that’s turning more toward drink and dining and away from college kids running around.”

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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