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

Lambda Lounge
Location: 343 W. Appleton Avenue, Appleton WI



Female/ Male
Bar/ social



The Lambda Lounge was opened in mid-1977 by Gene Koenke and Paul DeBruin. Its advertisement in the August 1977 issue of GPU News reads that this bar was "Formerly Doris' Super Bar" and was now "Under new management". The ad also states that it was at that time "The Fox Valley's One and Only Gay Bar". Some sources call it Appleton's first gay bar.

The Lambda Lounge did a little advertising in Milwaukee's 'GPU News' in late 1977 (see example to right), and was listed in LGBT periodicals 'Milwaukee Calendar' and then its successor publication 'Gay Milwaukee' from April 1980 to April 1981, but otherwise did no advertising that we are aware of. And while it appeared in a few national 'Damron' gay guides until 1982, after that there is no further listing for it.

According to a 2023 article in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

    "Cindi DeBruin, Paul's sister, said the two bought the bar from Claire Kempky who ran Doris' Super Bar, a business with a reputation as a hangout spot for gay people. That reputation, she said, encouraged her brother to open a gay bar after Kempky's closed."

    "Researcher for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's "Our Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories of Northeastern Wisconsin" Dennis Jacob said bar patrons often experienced backlash from Appleton residents who believed homosexuality was wrong and didn't like having a gay bar downtown. While patrons were safe to be themselves inside the bar, Jacobs said people knew to not enter or leave the bar alone as they faced violence from straight people and many fights took place outside the bar."

    "These early [gay] bars were rough," Jacobs said. "But the gay population in Appleton stood their ground and fought back."

The bar got competition when the very popular dance club 1101 West opened in 1981. The popularity of 1101-West likely caused the ultimate demise of the Lambda Lounge.

(One account claims that the Lambda Lounge was the location of the last gathering of the Fox Valley Gay Alliance (FVGA): a Mardi Gras held on February 29, 1975. That account is mistaken, as this bar was known as Doris' Super Bar in 1975.)

Any further information about either of these businesses is welcome.


Advertisement, August 1977
GPU News, pg. 44, vol. 6 no. 11
(The identical advertisement was placed in GPU News multiple times through Jan. 1978)

Matchbook cover:
"The Gayest Spot in Town"
(courtesy Paul Jacob and NE Wis. LGBT History project)

Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2021.

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