New bar planned for former Eastsider space aims to honor the past

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A Milwaukee-based lawyer and real estate broker hopes to restore what was once a lively nightlife strip on Milwaukee’s East Side by bringing back a longtime establishment in modern form.

Cord Harris recently signed a lease for the former Eastsider space. The Eastsider was a popular college bar that closed in 2017 after almost 20 years in business at 1732 E. North Ave.

Harris plans to open Upper East Bar there, a new establishment that’s reminiscent of the old one.

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A solo attorney and owner of Milwaukee-based Harris Realty Group, Harris said The Eastsider was a popular spot during his college years at Marquette University, where he attended undergrad and then law school, graduating in 2014.

“The intention is to bring it back to a modern version of what it used to be and revitalize the bar scene in that area, with all the nearby bars that have closed down,” said Harris.

Upper East Bar is slated to open in late September. Harris plans to keep the concept simple: a place where patrons “can hang out and drink cheap beer in a welcome environment, whether it’s watching sports or hanging out with friends.”

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The Eastsider is one of several longtime neighborhood taverns along East North Avenue that have shuttered in the past decade, including Rascal’s, G-Daddy’s BBC and Vitucci’s. Some of those vacant spaces have been filled with new, more modern bar-restaurants concepts, such as Hacienda Brewing Co., Izzy Hops Swig & Nosh, and Snack Boys, which is currently closed.

The 800-square-foot Eastsider space was most recently home to BaccaNera Enoteca, a craft cocktail and wine bar that was only open for a little more than a year before falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic late last year.

Harris first learned that the storefront was vacant again in June, when he was out for a run and saw a sign in the window. At that point, he had known for a while that he wanted to open another business in the Milwaukee area.

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“I had been actively looking at other places, but it was coincidental that I ended up stopping at a red light and seeing the sign,” he said.

Since his plans to open Upper East Bar became public, Harris said, people have reached out to him “by the hundreds” to share stories and memories of The Eastsider. Harris plans to build on that relationship with the community by partnering with local charities and renting out the space for events.

Harris will initially run the bar on his own, and plans to begin hiring bartenders and bouncers in the next couple of weeks as UW-Milwaukee resumes. He’ll eventually hire a management team but plans to remain active in day-to-day operations. Upper East Bar will be open Monday through Saturday, from late morning to bar close.

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