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For 21 years, Club 94 was THE dance bar in southweastern Wisconsin (outside of Milwaukee), with no competition from Racine bars (which were typically smaller neighborhood-type bars). Located most of that time at Highway C exit of I-94, in 2003 the business was moved north to this location to become Club 94-North, under the same owner.
Then, late in 2005, the longtime owner of Club 94 sold the bar; it remained open under the old name until April 2006, when a "Grand Opening" party was held for the newly renamed Club ICON.
There was no change in popularity however. As the only LGBT bar in SE Wisconsin (south of Milwaukee), Club ICON remained extremely popular destination for the LGBT community of Racine and Kenosha, drawing customers from the northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois as well. The bar held frequent drag and other shows, with a drink rail surrounding a combination dance floor/ stage area providing a great place to watch shows and then dancers when the music fired up.
In April 2016, Club ICON celebrated 10 Years in business. An article in Quest magazine (volume 23-04), which featured a photo of the staff, read:
Located near the border of Wisconsin and Illinois with easy access from Interstate highway I-94, Club ICON is one of the few larger LGBT clubs left in Wisconsin, but what a great club it is. Over the past 10 years this place has undergone continuous remodeling and technological improvements similar in scope to FIVE in Madison, the former Za’s Videobar in Green Bay and the LaCage complex in Milwaukee.
Perhaps unique to Wisconsin LGBT bars today, ICON's customers show their pride very publicly. This club is involved in the community in a big way, producing floats for AT&T and WGN Radio that included the Stanley Cup in the Chicago Pride Parade. Thier contribution to the Milwaukee LGBT Pride Parade has received 9 awards including the First Place "Best Float" award. In the 10 years ICON has been around they have given over $100,000 back to the communities they serve. ICON's staff have received a variety of accolades and positions in the community including the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors, the Kenosha Pride Board of Directors, and an honorary member of the United States Navy's GLASS Organization.
ICON has hosted events featuring JujuBee, Jackie Beat, Ronnie Nyles, the stars of COLT, Rickey Sins, Furrlesque and a favorite, their annual Turnabout Fundraising show where the staff take to the stage and perform for a very enthusiastic crowd.
ICON's manager was quoted, "Club ICON is a PROUD LGBTQ establishment and we are committed to the community we represent. We believe in building and maintaining a progressive atmosphere that is both entertaining and safe for everyone to enjoy. We value compassion, responsibility, and respect for all facets of diversity in the customers we serve. Club ICON welcomes the LGBTQ community, their friends, families, and straight allies who support this vision. We hold that inclusion ensures progress towards equality for our community both here and beyond our doors."
In February-March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the bar (along with millions of other bars, restaurants and other businesses around the world) was temporarily forced to close in March 2020 to reduce the spread of the disease. Their Facebook post on March 17 2020 read:
To our Loyal Fans, Friends & Family of Club Icon. Due to COVID-19, the safety of everyone & Governor Evers orders Club Icon is forced to temporarily close effective immediately. Our dance floor might be dark & silent for time being, but don’t worry we have every intention of REOPENING! As Gloria Gaynor said, WE WILL SURVIVE! Follow us on social media & online for details on our reopening. During this difficult time please keep our outstanding team in your thoughts. Please stay safe.
When Club ICON reopened on May 27 2020, legal capacity was temporarily greatly reduced and customers had to remain seated with social distancing and face mask use by staff and customers enforced. Through the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays, large capacity-size crowds were essentially banned and (like all bars) the ambiance was subdued.
COVID restrictions were gradually reduced, and around June 1, 2021, mask use by those vaccinated was often lifted (at the discretion of management) and capacity limits raised back to pre-pandemic levels. Club ICON had survived the pandemic-- but many bars and restaurants across the country had been forced to close permanently, having been unable to sustain a year or more of no or greatly reduced business. Even such national gay bar landmarks as The Stonewall and Julius' in New York City had nearly gone under. The bar landscape was drastically changed. What will the future look like for bars, and especially gay bars?
Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August-2021.
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