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

Ray's Bar & Grill
aka Geraldine's
aka Ray's
aka Men's Room
aka Phoenix Patio Bar
aka Jake's
Location: 3 Locations in Madison WI over 14 years:
2415 Winnebago Street (Dec 1992- Jan 1995)
3054 E. Washington Ave. (1995-2003)
2526 E. Washington Ave. (2003-Apr 2007)


December 1992
April 9, 2007

Men/ Women
Bar, Food


The original Ray's Bar & Grill was opened in December 1992 by Ray Jacobson. In Step's 'Steppin Out' column mentioned it as a "comfortable, cozy bar and grill". An advertisement says: "Madison's finest gay owned & operated Bar & Grill, A Place for Clean, Healthy Fun". Thus begins a long winding road and a string of relocations and renamings.

As the bar's second anniversary approached in October 1994, an article appeared wherein it was announced that owner Ray was opening a second location at 3052-3054 W. Washington (the old 'Club 3054'), which he planned to call 'Reflections'. At the second anniversary celebration, Ray was referred to as "owner of Ray's and now Geraldine's". Ray had decided to name the new bar "Geraldine's" after his mother, rather than the planned name "Reflections".

But by January 1995, the original Ray's bar at 2415 Winnebago Street was closed. A mention in the column 'Steppin Out' said that "owner Ray, who recently bought, remodeled and opened Geraldine's up the street at 3052 E. Washington Avenue, sold Ray's back to the original owner". So for some reason Ray had decided to make the new bar his only bar!

Things are murky for Ray's loyal customers for several months. For a time it seemed that Geraldine's was a 'western' bar, advertising Western Line Dancing with 'Dairyland Cowboys and Cowgirls', and at least one live country-western singer. It's not until August 1995 that an advertisement for Geraldine's announces "Ray's Bar is BACK & Open Friday, September 1/ Alongside Geraldine's (Entrance on east side of building) We have set aside a new space designed for men in mind."

So Ray's Bar was back, but as an afterthought and side addition to the newer Geraldine's space. Then in February 1996 another Geraldine's advertisement includes a box reading "Watch for the opening of Ray's Restaurant- coming soon inside Geraldine's."

In November 1996, an advertisement headed "Geraldine's / The Men's Room & Ray's Cafe" is promoted as "4 Year Anniversary!!". The ad goes on, "We've changed buildings, added new names and spaces, but Ray's business is now 4 years old and still growing." The ad mentions a "Men's Room Grand Opening" upstairs.

By July 1997, Geraldine's is being advertised as a complete entertainment complex, with 4 bars, dancing, restaurant, outdoor patio with volleyball, Geraldine's Restaurant & Bar, The Men's Room levi/ leather bar on second floor, Ray's Bar and Phoenix Patio Bar. It's unclear to patrons whether "Ray's" is still a separate entity at all or now simply a segment of a new Geraldine's identity.

Things finally clear up when a 5th Anniversary advertisement reveals that as of January 1, 1998, "Geraldine's will be going back to our roots and our original name" as "Ray's Bar & Grill". For the next couple of years it appears that the bar was fairly successful, although it no longer seemed to be doing any advertising as we have not located many examples.

Then in late 2002 the bar disappears from Bar Listings in media. One of the last listings was in the October issue of Quest magazine (and considering that listings were usually updated infrequently, we can speculate the bar may have closed a month or two prior).

Was this to be the end of Ray's Bar? It appears to have been closed and out of business from mid-late 2002, for about a year.

The bar pops up again in Bar listings in mid-2003, along with a photo appearing in OutBound magazine's July 2003 issue mentioning a "New Ray's". Because of the lack of advertising or even mentions in LGBT periodicals of the time, we don't know what happened in the prior year that caused the closure of the old Geraldine's location and eventual move. A passing reference is made in the OutBound column 'Tales from the Trailer' by Terry Halverson in the September 2003 issue of OutBound magazine which reads: "Ray's closed his location at 3054 East Washington and moved to a new location at 2415 East Washington Ave next to Red Letter News."

Mid-2004, the advertising budget must have been pumped up, as some flashy ads began to appear. A year later, a few small ads and Bar Listings began to reference a "Jake's (inside Ray's)". Who is Jake, and why the separate bar space (and space name) within Ray's bar?

Then in October 2005, a large ad appeared, sporting both the Ray's and Jake's logos, with the Jake's logo noticeably larger. The ad reads: "Ray's Bar has another new addition- THE WAREHOUSE", opening for Halloween. The ad goes on to say: "This party will be reminiscent of the Old Hotel Days" (referring to the long-gone Hotel Washington complex).

We have found no advertising or references for the next 18 months.

Unfortunately, the bar was to come to a sudden and undignified end. On April 9, 2007, the bar was closed and owner Ray Jacobson revealed was being evicted. Apparently rent checks had recently been given to the landlord with unsufficient funds in his account to cover them. After about 14 years of off-and-on business in three different locations, Ray's Bar was no more.

Original Location: 2415 Winnebago Street

Mention in Steppin Out column of new bar
(In Step vol 10 #4, February 1993)
Photo of owner Ray and staffer David
(In Step vol 10 #4, February 1993)
Advertisement for 1st Anniversary
(In Step vol 10 #23, November 1993)
Advertisement for 4th of July party
(Quest vol 1-11, June 1994)
Advert for Labor Day weekend pig roast
(In Step vol 11-18, Sept. 1994)
Advert, start of Sunday Bowling season
(In Step vol 11-18, Sept. 1994)
Announcement that owner Ray is opening
a second location to be called 'Reflections'
at 3052-3054 W. Washington
(the old Club 3054)
(In Step vol 11-20, October 1994)
Article, Ray's to celebrate 2nd anniversary and open second bar Geraldine's
(In Step vol 11-23, Nov. 1994)
Ad for new bar Geraldine's
(In Step vol 11-24, Dec. 1994)

Photo sneak peak of new bar; opening delayed
(In Step vol 11-25, Dec. 1994)
Article and Photo from
second anniversary weekend
(In Step vol 11-25, Dec. 1994)
Photo of owner and staffers
from second anniversary
(In Step vol 11-25, Dec. 1994)

Second Location: 3052-3054 E. Washington Ave. (aka Geraldine's)

Advertisement for live performance
by Nashville's Jeff Miller
(In Step vol 12-7, March 1995)
Advertisement for Pool Tournament
(In Step vol 12-07, April 1995)
Advertisement Geraldine's announces
Ray's Bar is BACK alongside Geraldine's (entrance on east side of building)
(In Step vol 12-17, August 1995)
Ad for Geraldines includes "Watch for the opening of Ray's Restaurant- coming soon inside Geraldine's"
(In Step vol 13-02, Feb. 1996)
Ad for "Madison's largest gay dance floor after the Picnic" and "The Men's Room" above Geraldine's
(Wis Light vol 9-14, July 1996)
Summary of Geraldine's in
special article on Madison bars
(Wis Light vol 9-15, July 1996)
Photo, opening of "The Men's Room" bar
inside Geraldine's
(In Step vol 13-15, August 1996)
4th Anniversary Ad
"The Men's Room & Ray's Cafe"
(In Step vol 13-23, Nov. 1996)
Ad for 'Ray's Cafe' serving
late nights inside the bar
(In Step vol 14 #6, March 1997)
Rare stand-alone advertisement
for "Men's Room"
(In Step vol 14 #1, January 1997)
Ad for Geraldine's as a
complete entertainment complex
(In Step vol 14-14, July 1997)
5th Anniversary Ad that Geraldine's
is going back to its original name
"Ray's Bar & Grill"
(In Step vol 14-25, Dec. 1997)
Advertisement, Magic Picnic weekend
(In Step vol 16-14, July 1999)
Ad for Ray's Bar & Grill "Madison's Gay & Lesbian Sports Bar"
(G-Street vol 1-07, Jan. 2001)
Ad, Heartless Bitches Tour, Outdoor Patio
(G-Street vol 1-12, June 2001)
Photos, Pride parade 2001
(Ray's float photo lower right)
(G-Street vol 2-02, Aug. 2001)
Ad, Ronnie Nyles & The Chix Mix Band
(In Step vol 18-25, Dec. 2001)
One of last Listing for old location
in bar directory
(Quest vol 9-13, Oct. 2002)

Third Location: 2526 E. Washington Ave.

Photo, Bartenders at "New" Ray's
(OutBound vol 2-07, July 2003)
Listing for new location in bar directory
(Quest vol 10-10, Aug. 2003)
Mention in 'Tales from the Trailer'
(approx middle of first paragraph)
(OutBound vol 2-09, Sept. 2003)
(OutBound vol 3-07, July 2004)
(OutBound vol 4-05, May 2005)

Small advertisement and listing for
"Jake's" bar inside Ray's
(OutBound vol 4-08, Augu. 2005)
Ad that Ray's has added
a large warehouse area
(OutBound vol 4-10, Oct. 2005)
Undignified end: rent checks bouncing, bar closed and business evicted
(Quest vol 14-06, April 2007)

Madison's newest bar
column 'Steppin Out'
(In Step vol 10-4, February 1993)

Photo of owner Ray and staffer David
(In Step vol 10-4, February 1993)

Labor Day weekend ad
(In Step vol 11-18, Sept. 1994)

Advertisement, Jeff Miller live at Geraldine's
(In Step vol 12-06, March 1995)

4th Anniversary ad, "Geraldine's,
Men's Room & Ray's Cafe"
(In Step vol 13-23, Nov. 1996)

Ad, Geraldine's is a complete entertainment complex
(In Step vol 14-14, July 1997)

5th Anniversary ad, going back to
original name "Ray's Bar & Grill"
(In Step vol 14-25, Dec. 1997)

Flashy advertisement
after long time without advertising
(OutBound vol 3-07, July 2004)

Advertisement for new Warehouse space
at Ray's Bar / Jake's
(OutBound vol 4-10, Oct. 2005)

2021 photo of Final location on E. Washington
(Google images)

2021 photo of Final location on E. Washington
(Google images)

Undignified end:
rent checks bouncing, bar closed and evicted
(Quest vol 14-06, April 2007)

Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August 2022

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