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

Loop Cafe
Location: 603 N. 5th Street


approx. 1964
approx. 1971

Male/ female
Restaurant/ Bar



The Loop Cafe is listed in several national 'Gay Bar Guides' from 1966 to 1971, suggesting it was open from about 1965 or earlier, to 1970 or 1971. No local references have yet been located.

The photo to the right is the only one known of both the site of the Loop Cafe (the first business on the left with the sign "FINE FOOD"), and the New Yorker gay bar (next door with the "Blatz" sign: 605 N. 5th St.). The large hotel beyond with the sign "Sheraton-Schroeder" was so-named from 1965-1971. It was bought in 1972 by the Marcus Corporation, and renamed the Marc Plaza. As of 2015, it is the Milwaukee Hilton.

In the late 1940s and early '50s (prior to being known as a gay hangout), The Loop was believed to be a "Super Bar"; which, in addition to serving customers on-site like any tavern, was also allowed to sell packaged beer, wine and liquor to be consumed off-site.

The New Yorker, according to the site was only open in 1971, so this photograph was likely taken sometime in warm weather 1971.

More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same!

    I used to go (to the NiteBeat) in 1967, when I was too young to get in. We'd try to look older, as if we knew how, by slicking our hair back and trying to dress conservatively... Later, we'd go to The Loop, on 5th and Michigan to wait for the 'bar crowd' so we could be with gay people. They had the worst hamburgers in the world, two slabs of bun with the burger carelessly thrown on it. You had to buy something to be there, so that's how I know. They had a notoriously mean, black haired, middle-aged waitress named Marie. You had to stay on her good side if you wanted to be there for bar crowd.

    The Loop was on the northwest corner of 5th and Michigan, kitty-corner from the old Royal Hotel. The Loop had two rooms, one with a lunch counter that looped around the room and had stools around it. There was a great juke box in that room. The second room was filled with oblong tables and kitchen chairs. It stayed open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Everyone went there after the bars closed. Because we were underage, we'd stay up all night until bar crowd, when we'd invade The Loop, looking to meet people. To kill time, we'd 'camp' up and down the avenue (Wisconsin), making a lot of noise and being outrageously gay. 'We' being crowds of six or seven teenagers, mostly queen types (Winnie, Delma, Danny Leigh) [There's an ad on your site that features Winnie. I think it's from the Royal Hotel bar. Delma is like a 7-foot tall black queen, who does or did live in SF.], some in make-up, being goofy and loud and acting queer in an 'in your face' manner towards all straight people on the street. I guess we were sort of 'wilding.' We didn't cause any harm or mayhem, and we weren't drinking or doing drugs. It was sort of a weekly, impromptu gay pride parade pre-Stonewall. We'd go out many Friday and Saturday night and do this. We all became hippies and grew up to be the GLBT movement.

    The infamous waitress at The Loop was Marie. Marie was short, middle-aged, stocky, had dyed black hair, puffy cheeks, swarthy complexion, and she wore rather a lot of make-up, and a classic waitress uniform with lapels and an apron over it. She almost never smiled. She was very strict and we had to behave or we'd be thrown out. Once barred, we were screwed, as there was nowhere else to meet gay/lesbian people. The food was horrible at The Loop, but for obvious reasons, nobody cared. I remember frozen french fries and dry hamburgers on dry buns, with nothing but ketchup to put on them. Even the cokes were flat and too syrupy. The decor was non-existent. It wasn't even bad decor. Just drab and not done at all, kind of stuck in the 1930s depression era. I used to go to The Loop from 1967 to probably 1969, when I turned 21.

    D.H. Cass M.


Listings in early "Gay Guides":
(For more information on the Guides, click here.)

1966 Bob Damron's Address Book
    Publisher note
Notes: Code "C": Coffee, Food
1967 International Guild Guide
    Title pg
1968 Bob Damron's Address Book
    Title pg   Editors note   Codes
Notes: Code "C": Coffee, Food
1969 International Guild Guide
    Title pg   Editors note   Codes
Notes: Still popular/ YC, many underage/ mainly after bar spot
1970 Bob Damron's Address Book
Notes: YC, C/ after hours
1971 Bob Damron's Address Book
    Title pg   Codes
Notes: YC, C/ after hours

Loop Cafe is to the left with the "FINE FOOD" sign
(c1971; see notes in the text to the left)

Photo of the area from about 1971
(see notes in the text to the left)

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Narrative and Photo courtesy of Michail Takach.
National gay guide research by Don Schwamb.
Recollections contributed as indicated.
Last updated: July-2020.

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