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

Cafe Melange
Location: 720 N. Old World Third St.


October 15, 1987
October 14, 1997

Male/ Female
Restaurant and Club / Bar



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Cafe Melange was a club and restaurant owned and operated by Larry Krueger. When it first opened in the lobby of the Hotel Wisconsin on 3rd Street, they served lunch Monday thru Friday, and dinner only on Friday and Saturday nights (IS SO 4-20).

The John Schneider Orchestra was the house band for Cafe Melange fpor nearly the Cafe's entire lifetime. According to the Band's website in 2008 (now gone):

    The John Schneider Orchestra performs the best of the Great American Songbook, the pop songs of the 1920s - 1950s, featuring the songs of Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmicheal, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Kern, Berlin, and the Gerswhins. Playwright, actor, and long time director of Theatre X, John Schneider leads the band, sings and tap dances. The band includes female vocalist and actress Claire Morkin, pianist Connie Grauer and dummer Kim Zick (of the well-known band Mrs. Fun), saxophonist Rip Tenor (aka comedian and columnist Art Kumbalek), and bass player Tom McGirr.

    The Orchestra was the house band at the legendary Cafe Melange in the historic Hotel Wisconsin in downtown Milwaukee from 1988 until the club was closed in 1997. The Orchestra has continued to perform throughout the area for clubs, festivals, organizations and events. It has performed for the Pabst Theatre, The Milwaukee Art Mueseum, The Skylight Cabaret, Summerfest, Bastille Days, Jazz in the Park, the Third Ward Jazz Festival, the Wisconsin State Fair, and the Boerner Botanical Gardens, among many others. It was also a weekly feature of the Wisconsin Public Radio variety hour The Hotel Milwaukee Show.

    (The Band's last known home base, in 2008, was O’Donohues Irish Pub, 13225 W. Watertown Plank Road in downtown Elm Grove.)

The Cafe was forced to close late in 1997, when the Hotel Wisconsin was sold. As stated in a Milwaukee Journal article of August 15, 1997:

    The longtime lounge, cabaret and restaurant Cafe Melange, 720 Old World Third St., will close its doors for good on Oct. 14 following the recent sale of its site, the Hotel Wisconsin. Melange offered Milwaukee's closest attempt at a 1930s-style cabaret, with its dim lighting, sponge-patterned walls and tiny round tables with barely enough room for a candle and pair of martini glasses.

    Why the closing? "I told the new owner that I needed to know if he was going to renew my lease," said Melange owner Larry Krueger. "Otherwise, I wouldn't spend the $1,800 or so for a liquor and cabaret license, with the risk that we could close at any moment."

Last Call at Cafe Melange was reported in a Milwaukee Journal article of October 14, 1997:

    Stella Ivory tends bar Monday night at the farewell party for Cafe Melange, which will be closing today on Old World 3rd St. The cafe and bar, on the ground floor of the Hotel Wisconsin, held its closing party just one day short of the 10th anniversary of the club's opening. Ivory has worked at the Cafe Melange since it opened. Hotel Wisconsin was purchased by an out-of-town developer...

(An article from "OnMilwaukee.com" dated November 2005 recalls "Milwaukee's Best Bars of Yesteryear", which includes Cafe Melange. It reads: "Tucked into the Hotel Wisconsin, Café Melange was a quietly cool lounge, discreetly serving up jazz and other live music. Back in the day, you could enjoy a concert by La Chazz, John Schneider, Victor DeLorenzo, Mrs. Fun or even Art Kumbalek. Sheila Spargur hosted the popular "Poet's Sunday," and radio show "Hotel Milwaukee" was recorded live in the space. Meanwhile, throughout the '80s reggae and alternative bands played downstairs in The C Club, where Paul Finger also had a popular ska/reggae/soul record spin each week. The bar closed in October 1997."

More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.

Advertising flyer/ poster
(courtesy of Cass)
(see more photos on Images page)

House Band, the John Schneider Orchestra,
circa 1989
(see more photos on Images page)


Toga Party fundraiser for Milw AIDS Project,
May 1992

Memorial Day dance, May 1994

owner Larry Krueger
in front of the entrance, c1995

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb,
with many photos and information provided by D.H. Cass Magnuski.
Last updated: July-2020.

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