The Lost & Found Bar was for a few years a popular bar on the outskirts of downtown, on North 27th Street just south of Wisconsin Avenue. Owned and managed by Karla Farr, it advertised as "Milwaukee's First Women's Disco" and later as "Wisconsin's Largest Women's Bar (where everyone is welcome)". (Another 'owner', Beverly, is named in a photo published in November 1980.)
The bar held various parties, including a regular summer corn roast, and hosted live entertainment at times. By 1981 the bar was hosting a women's softball team (the Honey Bees), to play in the SSBL (Saturday Softball Beer League). However, the bar never seemed to develop a "logo", as its various ads over the years never displayed one.
The Lost & Found was closed in Sept. 1984 (right around its 6th anniversary), and reopened (under new ownership) as the Music Box, which only lasted from October 1984 to February 1985. Slightly more successful, but still fleeting, was the 27th Street Danceteria, opened first in March 1985 as an under-age 'juice' bar open until dawn, but to allow dancing needed a liquor license- but still only stayed open until June 1987.
Historian Michail Takach wrote the following about this bar in a Facebook post in 2021:
October 1978: October 1978: Lost & Found, Wisconsin's first women's disco, opens at 618 N. 27th St.
Owned by the mysterious Pete and Bev Nilsson, former operators of the popular Leaded Shade at 157 S. 1st St. (1974-1979,) Lost & Found operated on a "courtesy card" basis for the safety of its guests.
Manager Karla Farr created an extremely popular and unique space for women. Lost & Found is remembered as one of the first gay bars to play New Wave music in Milwaukee. By 1980, they began hosting full-length production shows, featuring Miss Gay Wisconsin Patsy Parks, the ever-popular Legs, and other local talent. The bar sponsored softball, bowling and darts teams, as well as a popular annual corn roast.
The Nilssons were brave to open a dance club at 27th and Michigan. Car break-ins, muggings and street harassment were already common in the late 1970s. One employee even remembers being mugged for her George Webb burgers after work one night. When the hospitals that once anchored the neighborhood began to close and consolidate, the Avenues West neighborhood went on a steep decline. In September 1984, the Lost & Found closed and reopened under new ownership as The Music Box. It didn't last.
The 27th Street Danceteria (1985 - 1987) later opened here: an all-ages, late-night dance club that initially did not serve liquor. Today, it's difficult to imagine LGBTQ clubs near 27th and Wisconsin, but for about a decade, they were there!
"Wisconsin's Largest Women's Bar" may have only lasted for six years, but customers still have lasting memories of their time at The Lost & Found.
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!
The original 'Leaded Shade' was owned by Pete and Bev Nilsson who went on to open the Lost and Found (and later owned the bar on 1st and Washington). They were an interesting couple who loved the LGBT community. I know they were like parents to many including me, Michael Roberts, a drag queen 'Donny', and many more. Everyone called Bev, 'Ma'. She was a very funny woman. We all lived above the bar in the apartments. Once we heard her yelling from her apt. Here she was sitting on the toilet and the whole plaster ceiling had fallen on her head. Another time they had a BBQ and it rained. Some genius pulled the grill inside. She called me at my other job so I came "home" and the whole bar was full of smoke. Seriously silly times.They had a daughter, Karla and son, Mike. I was a bartender for them in 1977-78ish. Every night I closed L & F and Bev sent me to Webb's on Clybourn for burgers. Once on the way back, I got mugged of the burgers!
-- Karen Elsby, via Facebook (2018)
Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Contributor via "History of Gay Milwaukee" Facebook group and Jamie Taylor.
Last updated: August-2023.
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