A proposed tennis table sports bar on the east side of Waukesha remain on hold while some Plan Commission members question if the bar owner plans to turn the bar into an adult-entertainment establishment.
Thumpers Sports Bar is proposed to be modeled after Spin, a popular table tennis restaurant and bar in downtown Milwaukee. Thumpers owner Chaz Hastings operates other bars and told Waukesha Patch after the meeting that he does not plan on turning Thumpers Sports Bar into a strip club or into adult entertainment, despite the possibility being alluded to several times during the meeting by some members on the Plan Commission.
- See Plan Commission minutes from the first time Thumpers was discussed.
Plan Commissioner Kevin Larson wanted to change the zoning of the land at Lincoln Avenue and Highway 164 from a manufacturing zoning to a business zoning, Adult-entertainment businesses are allowed in manufacturing zoning but not in the business zoning. However, the property in question is in a tax incremental district that, according to the terms of the agreement, has to stay zoned as a manufacturing district, according to city staff. The Plan Commission members are being asked to present any legal-related questions to city staff before the project returns to the Plan Commission for the city attorney’s office to weigh in on the matters.
Mayor Jeff Scrima said he has spoken with a “reliable source” close to the developer who told him the establishment is planned for an eventual adult-orientated entertainment business.
“It is not surprising because they certainly do more than table tennis at the other establishments,” Scrima said.
Larson brought pictures from Hastings’ other establishment, Bottoms Up Tavern, as he had clear concerns about the nature of activity that would go on at the sports bar. The pictures were of scantily clothed women, including one topless woman covered in body paint and one woman wearing thong underwear.
“I owe it to the citizens of Waukesha to ask some of these questions,” Larson said. “…I have some concerns. I want to approve a table tennis sports bar club in the City of Waukesha.”
Larson and Scrima brought up issues of plans for lockers and VIP rooms, as well as other elements in the sports bar plans.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Larson said.
Hastings’ attorney, Susan Sorrentino, said Hastings is not applying for a conditional use permit for a strip club.
“This is going to be table tennis,” Sorrentino said. “I am having a hard time understanding why you don’t think different clubs have different uses.”
Sorrentino used Hasting’s bar in Erin, Tally Ho Pub & Grill, as a bar that has a different use than what Larson was showing in the pictures.
Sorrentino asked that the Plan Commission not judge the project, which was on the agenda for preliminary plan and conditional use approval, based on “personal suspicions.”
“We just want to be treated fairly,” Sorrentino said.
At one point in the meeting, Linda Leaf, president of the Shorewood Table Tennis Club, was showing her support for Thumpers Sports Bar, citing reasons like table tennis being a family sport and a sport for people of all ages, genders and level of fitness.
That’s when Larson handed her a large stack of documents that had the photographs of the scantily dressed women at Bottoms Up Tavern.
“Obviously that is not what table tennis players do,” Leaf said.
At one point in Larson’s questioning of Leaf about the possibilities at Thumpers, Sorrentino stepped in and asked Larson to stop “badgering” Leaf. When Sorrentino was given the stack of documents that Larson presented, it was discovered that the top two pages had several photographs, but the remaining pages were a thick stack of plain white paper.
Alderman Chris Hernandez, who supports a table tennis bar but not a strip club, said he had issues with the way Larson handled the situation.
“I am embarrassed and ashamed by it. There is a different way to approach it,” Hernandez said. “… Why not just come out and say it? You don’t have to be aggressive about it or nasty about it."