Business slows in downtown bars during Milwaukee Bucks playoff game

Two days after gunfire broke out in Milwaukee’s downtown entertainment district, injuring 21 people and triggering a curfew order, bars and restaurants saw significantly smaller crowds on Sunday afternoon to watch the NBA playoffs.

The Milwaukee Bucks canceled their watch party at the Deer District plaza outside the Fiserv Forum, and it appeared business was slow at several downtown hotspots that had been bustling in previous games.

Those who ventured out said they weren’t worried about their safety but expected weekend violence to affect attendance in the short term.

Matt Painter lives near the Deer District and said he usually goes out to watch Bucks games. He was one of three dozen people present at the Beer Garden on Sunday during the whistleblowing. The area is usually crowded during playoff games.

“I don’t think one serious incident can ruin the Deer District. I think it’s still a good home environment,” he said. “I always feel safe here.”

He said the shootings will likely affect business in the area in the immediate future, as he thinks people will be reluctant to travel downtown.

Max Bradshaw, assistant general manager of Oak Barrel Public House, a block from the Fiserv Forum on North King Drive, said he thought fewer families would bring their children to the area.

But he believed Milwaukee would bounce back.

“People like to have short memories like that,” he said.

On Sunday, some bars seemed to have steady traffic, but most were sparsely populated. The streets were quiet and the outside tables of most bars were empty.

Bars and restaurants along North Water Street saw few people during the Milwaukee Bucks playoff game on Sunday afternoon.  The street was the scene of two shootings Friday night after the previous game, including one that injured 17 people.

Sunday’s calm tone contrasted with the chaotic scene on Friday after the Bucks lost Game 6. Large crowds had swelled in the streets in what was almost an early festival atmosphere that spilled out of control – with loud music, clouds of smoke and people stopping traffic for impromptu dance parties.

Demetre Davis, who works at McGillicuddy’s – located at the intersection where 17 people were shot – criticized police for not doing enough to control crowds on Friday.

“You have crowds of 50 people standing on the corner in front of the businesses,” he said.

He suggested making the Entertainment District a pedestrian zone with more security.

When asked if the security situation would improve in the area, Davis replied that “it depends on how they (the police) start enforcing things.”

“People are always going to carry guns,” Davis said. “(If) the police sit back, let it go, then they won’t do anything.”

A Stop the Violence sign was posted outside the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Sunday, May 15, 2022. In addition to a curfew, following a series of shootings Friday night following the Bucks' loss to Boston to force a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon, the Bucks opted to cancel watch party in the plaza outside the Fiserv Forum.

Milwaukee police said downtown Saturday night was “peaceful and uneventful” and no citations for curfew violations were issued.

There was no indication Sunday that criminal charges had yet been filed against any of the 11 people Milwaukee police said they arrested Friday night.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson imposed a Saturday and Sunday night curfew, beginning at 11 p.m., for people under 21 in downtown neighborhoods bordered by Knapp and State Streets, Vel Phillips Avenue and Broadway.

In enacting the curfew, Johnson urged people who wanted to cause trouble to stay away from downtown.

“To put it simply, if you intend to loiter, if you intend to act, to cut, if you intend to do anything illegal, then my message is simple: don’t come not here,” Johnson said.

However, violence was reported elsewhere in the city overnight.

Two people, a 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy, were killed in separate shootings early Sunday morning.

Nine minors have been victims of homicide this year in Milwaukee, according to police. Four were killed last week.

An emergency curfew sign hangs on the corner of East Juneau and North King Drive in Milwaukee on Sunday, May 15, 2022. In addition to the curfew, following a series of shootings Friday night after the Bucks loss to Boston to force a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon, the Bucks opted to cancel watch party in the plaza outside the Fiserv Forum.

On Saturday evening, officers scoured the area around North Water Street in small groups.

Still, some people made the decision to go out for the night.

One woman, Shannon King, said it was always important to have a social life.

She also said more could be done to engage young people in the city and that elected officials should hold community meetings to hear residents’ ideas on how to improve the city.

“There are a lot of different people in Milwaukee who have great ideas,” King said. “We just need to come together and stick together as a community.”

Sentinel Journal’s Drake Bentley contributed to this report.

Contact Sophie Carson at (414) 223-5512 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @SCarson_News.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement