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

Gary's Dance Club
Location: 219 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee WI


June 1975
August 1975

Bar/ social



In June 1975, it was the time of Disco music and disco dancing. The "King" of dance clubs in Milwaukee for the previous two years was the The Factory bar, and the talk of a new disco/ dance club (at first advertised with no hint of the location) was a popular topic of conversation there.

Gary's Dance Club opened late in June of 1975. The new Gary's location had previously held a laid-back gay bar called The Gallery Lounge from late 1974-early 1975- and this opening held promise of an additional disco dance club for the city.

But on August 23, 1975, the Milwaukee Journal reported that Gary's liquor license had been pulled because it was discovered that James O'Connor (owner of the River Queen gay bar) owned 500 shares in Salle Enterprises, the liquor license holder. O'Connor's felony record (mail fraud in WI and conspiracy to transport stolen goods across state lines in Louisiana) rendered him ineligible to be licensed himself, but also rendered the corporation ineligible to be licensed as long as he was a majority shareholder. As it turned out, he was the ONLY shareholder. Per the Milwaukee Sentinel, the City Attorney rendered Gary's license invalid on August 28, 1975. O'Connor, who lived at 225 E. St. Paul Ave (address of the Club Health Spa) refused to surrender the license to police, but the business closed anyway.

By December 1975, this location would re-open as Mister Z's. That was to be followed by Club Circus, then Circus-Circus, and eventually Club 219, a succession of highly successful and popular disco and dance clubs.


Advertisement, June 1975
(Note no address shown in this first ad)
(GPU News, June 1975, pg. 27)

Advertisement, July 1975
(GPU News, July 1975, pg. 40)

Credits: Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Main writeup by Don Schwamb;
Paragraph documenting loss of liquor license contributed by Michail Takach.
Last updated: May-2023.

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