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

Location: 819 S. 2nd Street


July 26, 1998

Male/ female
Martini bar

View Fluid's Web Site


Fluid bar was opened two previous bartenders of the Triangle, Bill Wardlow and Jimmy. The bar was very popular from the day it was opened, pulling many customers from the Triangle bar.

In addition to the popular bartenders bringing some of their loyal customers from the previous bar, another big draw for the bar's business was its proximity to the popular dance bar, La Cage, which was just half a block away. It became customary for many young men to first have a few cocktails at Fluid, then around 11:00 or 11:30pm to see an exoduc of people departing for La Cage to dance.

Fluid's main distinguishing feature was its martini cocktails. It boasted a large offering of martini cocktails of all types, made in shakers and served in fancy martini glasses. This was at the beginning of the "martini craze", and was the first LGBT bar to offer such a wide selection of drink choices.

After about 2 years, there was a falling out between the two owners. The bar closed for a short time, while Bill bought out Jimmy, and reopened it himself as sole owner and operator. The change was good for the business, and flourished even more.

Over time, Fluid becamse known for several things. It was heavily involved in cooperating with other LGBT bars in the area in promoting events; for example, it helped work out a rotation of stops on such nights as Halloween, where the bars cooperated on a schedule of stops (one bar from 8-9:30, another 9:30-11, etc.) On anniversary and birthdays, the bar boasted a diverse and generous buffet. Many Sunday afternoons it had "Drag Queen Bingo" events. And many Christmas holiday parties saw numerous door prize give-aways, and regular customers recieved drink cards good for one free drink each month of the coming year.

Meanwhile, as other bars seemed to struggle to accomodate smoking patrons as Wisconsin passed a "no smoking" law for bars and restaurants, Fluid constructed an outdoor patio area called "The Terrace" where customers could relax with cigarettes or just for some fresh air. (Opened October 4, 2014: Quest v21-10 pg 17.) This area was quickly enclosed by a tent and equipped with fire pit and heaters to allow its use even in the cold winter months.

Thus even after the 2020 COVID pandemic (which forced the temporary closure of bars and restaurants for months, and when many went out of business), Fluid continues to be a popular destination for many men, and has a changing array of handsome young men serving as bartenders- always good eye candy for the customers.

This location has been host to a long tradition of LGBT establishments. The first was apparently "Friendly's Bar" (1944-1947). It was operating as 'The Hustler' in the early 1970s, which may also have been somewhat gay friendly (additional research is needed). Its run as indisputable LGBT establishments really began when it became 'The Decision' in 1976. Next it was Hideaway (1976-c1980), after which its occupancy was uncertain for a few years. But its string of housing LGBT businesses resumed with the relocated Mint Bar II/ Angelo's (1986-1991), followed by BJ's Mint Bar (1991-1993), Zippers (1993-1998), and finally Fluid in 1998-- which is still open in 2021.

Photos of the bar taken in 2000 for an early web site
Windows face 2nd street to the East, bar is along the south wall
(photos by D. Schwamb)
Photos of the bar taken in 2000 for an early web site
Bar runs along the south wall
(photos by D. Schwamb)
Photos of the bar taken in 2000 for an early web site
Tables and stools line the north wall, seating to the rear at west end of bar space
(photos by D. Schwamb)
Patio photos from Fluid web site, 2019-2020
Bill and two of his employees
from Fluid web site, 2019-2020
Outoodr serving tent
(believed to be for a Pride Parade, c2019)
from Fluid web site, 2019-2020
from Fluid web site, 2019-2020
Drag shows
from Fluid web site, 2019-2020
Seasonal decorations
from Fluid web site, 2019-2020

New logo, 2019

Opening advertisement, July 1998

Opening flyer, July 1998

Monthly drink card for 2004

Drink card, 2005

Owner Bill Wardlow

Drink card, 2008

Article in 'OnMilwaukee.com', December 2019

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: June-2021.

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