History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Bars and Clubs

 
Woody's Bar
Location: 1579 S. 2nd St.

Opened:
Closed:

November 1997
(still open Nov 2018)
Clientele:

Male/ female
Bar/ social
Sports bar

View Woody's Facebook page

View a PDF of the web site as it existed in November 2005

View the Images & Articles Gallery page.

 
       
 

Woodys' was opened on November 14, 1997 in what had previously been a straight Mexican bar, and was soon a hit. (Quest v4-i21 pg16-17) The first room is a typical bar (with the bar along the long south wall opposite the rest rooms), but the back room is huge: large and open with a high ceiling. Because the bar is located on a corner (the northwest corner of 2nd St. and Lapham), a large window opens from this larger back room to the outside (at about 4' high). There is a small bar situated at the far end of this larger room.

The opening was mentioned in 'Quest' magazine v4-i21, with a blurb in the 'Leather/ Fetish' column on pages 16-17, and photos on pg 35. The blurb reads "Woody's opened Sat., the 14, with a very nice turn out. The whole inside has been freshly painted and has new lighting. The big dance hall has been rearranged into a game room up front, with the back 2/3 designed for shows and dancing. The atmosphere is very clean, friendly and the staff knows how to make you feel welcome."

Upon opening this bar, the owner (Steve) saw the need for a gay sports bar- and thus installed a very large screen TV in the back room to make viewing games more enjoyable. Woody's thus became the first gay bar to be wildly popular for Packer Games, Badger Games, etc. On a typical Packer Sunday, the bar was packed full of customers from game time until the cheerful or gloomy end of the game-- helped by a beer bust for the entire game (and one hour beyond), and free shots with every Packer score. (Originally $6, beer busts unfortunately had to keep up with inflation, so as of 2018 are currently $9.)

Woodys has a pool table, a collection of video game machines, and also subscribes to an interactive video gaming system, where patrons can join in answering trivia questions etc., competeing against other players nationwide.

The back room, because of its size, is ideal for larger gatherings or events. For example, in addition to housing a larger crowd for Packer games, several leather gear gatherings have been held here in years past, where various vendors or clubs show off their gear and sell what they can.

The bar changed hands in about 2010, when Toby bought the bar and the building. Long-time bartenders such as Lance and Roman continued to work there as they had a customer draw, and Toby's partner Curt also made frequent visits. But by and larger the bar relied on word of mouth for business: it no longer had a real advertising budget or social media presence, and aside from Packer games, no longer held very many events. However it retained a core of regulars who kept the bar in business.

An excellent article on the history of the building and the bar appeared on the 'Urban Milwaukee' web site in 2016, in an article titled "Woody's is a Ramshackle Gay Bar". The article offered an excellent description of the current state of the bar, as well as the colorful history of the building.

  

During Steve's original owenrship, he somehow found and acquired the "dildo wagon" or cart that was once in the legendary Wreck Room bar. The wagon was not always assembled, but when it was, it made an interesting setting to hold pizza, barbecue, or whatever is being served at Packer games or other events. Much earlier, the bar had also resurrected one other Wreck Room tradition: salted-in-the-shell peanuts were available in a barrel virtually all the time. As at the Wreck Room, patrons were encouraged to throw the shells on the floor.

Unfortunately, the original cart is no longer owned by the current bar: legend has it that Steve kept the wagon when he sold the bar. However as of mid-2018, the 'dildo yoke' was still in the back bar area, making a curious piece of 'furniture' of which few people know the back-story.

 


Building (late 2005)


Original owner, Steve


Grand Opening, November 1997
Quest, vol.4- issue 21


Interior of Woodys (late 2005)
(more interior photos on Images page)


Ad from Web site, 2006

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: October-2018.