Historian Michail Takach, archivist of this web site, wrote the following history of The Gaytime Bar, formerly known as Sally's, in 2021:
June 29, 1944: Milwaukee Common Council overrides police, Army and Navy objections to offer Peter Antross "one more chance" at a tavern license. Antross owns the controversial Sally's Cocktail Bar (731 N. 4th St.)-- popular with gay men, hustlers, hookers and other "unsavories" -- and reformers want the bar gone!
The Armed Forces had listed Sally's as "strictly out of bounds" for servicemen -- even though it was directly across the street from the USO office -- because it was *the* leading source of venereal disease infection in Milwaukee.
"Certain individuals who loiter in Sally's Cocktail Bar have been traced as the source of infection," said the Milwaukee Journal. They do not mention women. Multiple "disorderly conduct" and "solicitation" arrests occurred at Sally's between 1941 and 1944. In each case, the culprit was subject to a court-ordered medical examination, a psychiatric exam, and a hefty fine. Some were even jailed -- with bail set as high as $1,000. "Sally's is a notorious hell hole," said a judge in 1942, when Antross lost his tavern license. "I can see no reason why it should be allowed to continue."
Antross had been in trouble with the law eight times since 1932, when he was arrested for serving liquor during Prohibition at the "Hi-Way 15 Cafe" (619 W. Kilbourn.) More recently, he was arrested four times in one summer for serving liquor outside serving hours. Local papers question why the Council is giving a man with almost a dozen arrests another liquor license. They point out that Antross has been illegally operating Sally's under "sheer subterfuge" -- after losing his license in 1942, he installed his brother as the licenseholder and remained in control of the business. The Common Council is unusually unconcerned. They warn Antross AND the propery owner: even one more violation and the tavern license will be permanently revoked, and no bar would be allowed to operate at 731 N. 4th Street ever again.
Walter Malotzke, licensing chairman, issues the license with one condition: Antross must change the name of the bar. "Sally's is too well known among the worst elements of town," he said. "The name Sally's attracts a certain type of customer."
Antross promises to change the name. He offers the Common Council his suggestion and they agree it's far more respectable. The license is granted. Shortly afterwards, the Gaytime Bar opens for business. (No joke!)
A ferocious fire in 1951 allowed the Antross brothers to modernize the bar. The 1951 vintage neon sign was added to the facade and a new restaurant opened in a former Jewish delicatessen space. Apparently, the red neon "dripped" from above to light up the word "BAR." How was this not saved?
The Gaytime was featured in national gay guides until 1967, so it doesn't seem like the clientele changed at all. Somehow, the Gaytime remained open for 24 years. Perhaps George Antross was better at operating under the radar -- or perhaps, by the 1960s, Milwaukee Police had more urgent matters than harassing a pick-up joint.
It's unclear if the Antross brothers were affiliated with the Marmigas brothers (owners of the equally-troubled Legion Bar at 745 N. 6th St.) or Christ Mares (original owner of the Mint Bar at 424 W. State.) At any rate, this Greek nightlife syndicate had disappeared by the early 1950s.
The Gaytime closed in June 1968 after a violent shootout and attempted robbery. Finally, the Council had reason to call in Antross' last chance. Peter Antross was already gone -- he died in 1962 at age 73 -- but his brother George closed up shop. The reformers finally got what they wanted. The building was razed in December 1968 for surface parking. By 1996, that small surface parking lot had grown to encompass almost two entire city blocks from 4th to 6th, from Wisconsin to Wells -- leaving only the Belmont Hotel next door left in a massive sea of concrete. It's almost impossible to imagine a time when these were dense city blocks packed with life. Today, it's the east end of the Wisconsin Center.
GayTime no more!
(As shown below, the Gaytime Bar was listed in national Gay Bar Guides from at least 1965, to 1967. The bar was right next to the Belmont Hotel- whose Belmont Hotel Coffee Shop was listed in national gay guides both before and after the Gaytime Bar was listed.)
Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
National gay guide research by Don Schwamb.
Photo courtesy f Michail Takach.
Last updated: July-2021.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.