By Mrinal Gokhale
On the night of Saturday, May 1, Nicholas Waldron, who was a bouncer at Two Bucks, headed to his place of employment to enjoy his day off. Little did he know, he’d never again work alongside his coworkers of two years or hang out at his favorite bar.
“My friends texted me saying the owner was on a rampage, kicking out black customers and calling them the n-word,” he recalled. “The workers left by the time I got there.”
Only a few weeks ago, Two Bucks was a bar and grill just a few blocks south of UW-Milwaukee, offering low-cost drinks and bar foods. Customers and employees accused owner Lynn Forthaus of telling African-American customers to leave her bar on May 1, causing a media uproar, the revoking of the establishment’s franchise license, and, finally, its closing on May 6. Though many employees quit, they have not forgotten that night.
Waldron has been very vocal about his experiences with Forthaus through social media. He has been working at Hotel Foster part-time after quitting Two Bucks.
Waldron, who majored in media studies at UW-Milwaukee, has a Riverwest Radio podcast called “There Goes the Neighborhood”, where he discusses social issues in Milwaukee.
“I feel Milwaukeeans of all races and social classes are sick of the social divides. Once the media learned about this, I was in a position to help mend the divides,” he said. “I believe radicalized incidents on the east side happen when people from other cities don’t bother navigating cultural differences.”
According to Waldron, Forthaus displayed signs of dislike toward African-Americans prior to the incident, but he never saw this coming.
“Once the business grew and we’d get more than just a belligerent college kid, Lynn refused to hire more security,” he said. “She’d instead tell us not to accept customers who ‘look ghetto.’”
While Waldron has been open about his experiences, others have been keeping to themselves. Domonique Smith, who went to Two Bucks on May 1, has received interview requests, but didn’t end up returning those calls.
“I still think about the night but try not to get overwhelmed,” she said. “I have no hard feelings towards the establishment. I’m glad the situation was handled quickly, but I miss Two Bucks.”
Smith said that she was there to celebrate her birthday with friends, and she has been to the bar many times before.
She said she never experienced any problems there prior to May 1.
“I’ve never experienced such direct racism before. I’d love if Two Bucks reopens under a different owner,” she said.
Solana Patterson-Ramos, a UW-Milwaukee student, attended the bar on May 1 and witnessed the aftermath. She immediately created a Boycott Two Bucks Milwaukee Facebook page the next day, warranting over 2,000 likes.
“Two Bucks was my favorite place and the page provides a space where people discuss experiences and any updates regarding a reopening,” she said. “I’m keeping it open so people can share problems they had with other Milwaukee businesses, like Water Street bars.”
Two Bucks was located at 2321 N. Murray Avenue. The signage is gone due to the closing, but the building is for sale.
Visit www.facebook.com/notwobucksmke for updates.