On March 31, 2007, local restaurant chain The Chancery closed its location at 2575 N. Downer Avenue. The building has been empty ever since.

Yep, this prime chunk of East Side real estate has been empty for 17 years. Seventeen years! One more year and this inanimate husk of brick and concrete and ghosts of pretty good cheeseburgers will be old enough to vote.

“The evolution of the East Side’s Downer Avenue continues!” said OnMilwaukee when The Chancery closed in 2007. “Hey, remember the Chancery?” we said when we included the site in our original list of “cursed” Milwaukee business locations in 2016. (The Chancery’s Mequon location remains open to this day.)

Seventeen years. George W. Bush was president. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” had just been released. Olivia Rodrigo and most of those Stranger Things kids were just out of diapers. We’re pretty sure the Einstein Bagels next door had closed the previous summer. That space is now occupied by Optix on Downer. The old Chancery space is and has been occupied by…nothing. For 17 years.

Okay, so there have been some intriguing recent developments. Apartments above the storefront have been created and rented out. The exterior of the building has been given a slight overhaul and new windows. Oh, and the 4,238-square-foot space has been split into two!

One section, a 2,021-square-foot chunk that’s currently for lease, looks like this:

The other section has its windows blacked out, though we managed to sneak a peek through one of the upper windows:

About that section: Wasn’t it supposed to be a fancy bubble tea joint (and bar/restaurant) called SereniTea? Didn’t the owner already have locations on the Marquette campus and at Bayshore? Wasn’t he going to expand his SereniTea empire to Downer? License applications were filed back in March 2023; more than a year later, it appears to be a work in progress at best. We reached out to SereniTea, but haven’t heard back.

And yes, a floor plan for the property does show SereniTea in the space:

In other wonky Downer Avenue news, the Downer Theatre abruptly closed its doors in September 2023 but reopened under Milwaukee Film ownership in April 2024. Pizza Man, meanwhile, left its 10-year Downer Avenue home in 2023, but now appears poised to return to the space, after a year-long stint on Humboldt Avenue. Weird.

And oh yeah: What was the Chancery space before it was The Chancery? We’re pretty sure every time we do one of these check-ins someone even older than us is like “ACTUALLY it was Jerry’s East Side Nightclub!” or something. Thanks!

Want more Milwaukee Record? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and/or support us on Patreon.


After nearly 16 years, something is finally planned for the former Chancery on Downer

The old Chancery on Downer has been empty for 15 years (but maybe that’ll change?)

Shout-out to the old Chancery on Downer, which has been empty for 14 years