In 1960, Wally Whetham reopened what had been known as "Mary’s Tavern" as "the Black Nite" to celebrate its gay customers. Patrons remember a more protective police presence than at other bars.
On August 6, 1961, Black Nite was the scene of a sensational bar brawl. When a serviceman was thrown out of the bar, he returned with friends, looking for a fight. They found 74 customers ready and willing to defend their turf. “My boyfriend was a bouncer,” said Josie Carter, “and we did not run from a fight. We didn’t start anything, but we sure as hell finished it. I could fight an Army off in a bathrobe.” (That 'bar brawl' is documented in an article by Michail Takach in OnMilwaukee.)
The Black Nite relaunched as Bourbon Beat from 1963 to 1966, when the building was torn down for the extension of St. Paul Avenue. (The same owner also later opened Captain's Cabin gay bar, which closed amid a scandal.)
More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.
(A book, "LGBT Milwaukee" by Michail Takach, seeks to make the story of LGBT Milwaukee accessible, visible, and portable for future generations--before it is too late. The Black Nite is one of many early LGBT landmarks documented in the book.)
Web site contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Historical research and references by Michail Takach.
Last updated: August-2018.
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