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

Location: 801 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee WI



Male/ female



Few people remember much about Niko's now. Opened by owner Niko Stathis, some people remember it as a near South Side, blue-collar "roughneck" bar, or a punk bar; others remember a polka/ concertina bar; and then there are the people who think it was a Mexican restaurant.

Whatever it was (and most likely a gay 'punk' bar), Niko's didn't garner a fiercely loyal clientele, and by sometime in 1983 was on its last legs and about to close. It got the attention of another bar owner, George Prentice, who picked up the lease. George would remodel and reopen the bar as a new video and dance bar, La Cage-- which was to reinvent gay Milwaukee nightlife at 801 S. 2nd Street, and was to become a Milwaukee LGBT institution.


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!

      For their grand opening they had a human buffett: a guy laying down in a swimsuit with cold cuts covering up his body to make sandwiches. Ahhh no thank you.

      --Steven Dowell, via Facebook (2018)

      I remember (the human buffet guy), a little dirty-blonde guy. His name was Mike, a total dirt-bag; that human-buffet was set up on the pool table. Nico had nasty 20 year old furniture back where the dance floor (for LaCage) would eventually go, set up like a little family room. Nico was a nasty drunk, he was usually thrown out of every bar he went into.

      --Rick Stabler, via Facebook (2018)

      Old punks like me remember it as a punk club. I saw a band from Madison there; they were called Hollywood Autopsy and it was quite the happening 1981/1982 type scene. Many of my friends also still remember it as a punk bar, which is what it really was.

      --N.C., via email (2014)

      Bar owner Niko was a very nice person when he was sober. He was a terrible person when he was drunk. He would bend over backward to help when he could. He enjoyed the restaurant and bar business but it also helps to fuel his drinking problems. He was a part of Milwaukee's gay community for many years.

      --Tim Bambrough, via Facebook (2018)

      Niko was asked to leave many bars (due to his over-drinking) but most of them let him in because he spent money. I don't know how many times Grandma and Mike asked him to leave 1100 Club only to see him in there the next day. And that's how it was at all the bars he went to. Phoenix, The Mint, 1100 Club, and 3 B's were his hangouts. All walking distance from home.

      --Rick Stabler, via Facebook (2018)

      I was one of his tenants in his house he would bend over backwards for you but the liquor was not his friend.

      --Bob Simpson, via Facebook (2018)

      Niko Stathis died at his home at 316 W. Lapham Blvd. Milwaukee. He had been out at a Christmas party at someones home. The dogs woke me up so I went to let them out and found Niko trying to get in. I helped him in and put him to bed. Left for work, (and got home about 24 hours later to find police cars and ambulance). The police deduced that Niko had come home drunk and slipped on our back stairs and hit his head. He then got up and continued trying to get into the house which is when the dogs started making noise. He was not bleeding then. I helped him into the house. He never told me he fell down. The investigators said he must have been bleeding internally. It was too dark when I left (for work afterward) to see the small amounts of blood that were on the side of the house. The police figured out that when he fell he hit his head hard. He must have used the house to pick himself up. Hence the bloody handprints they found. He must have had a small cut but it was cold out and they think the cold slowed down his bleeding. When he came into the warm house it increased blood flow but most of the blood stayed in his head.

      --Tim Bambrough, via Facebook (2018)


Ad for Niko's bar
(Escape, vol 5-04, Feb. 1982)
(Same ad ran in 3 consecutive issues)

Ad: "Niko-Nomics"
(Escape, vol 5-15, July 1982)

Ad for New Years Eve
(Dec. 1982, source unknown)

Ad for New Years Eve
(Dec. 1982, source unknown)

Photo: New Years Eve party
(courtesy Jamie Taylor, Jan. 1983)

'Steppin' Out' mention of upcoming opening
of new 'La Cage' bar in old Niko's space
(In Step volume 1-01, Feb. 1984)

Credits: website concept and design by Don Schwamb;
Special thanks to Jamie Taylor for contributing info from his
'History of Gay Milwaukee' Facebook group.
Last updated: August-2023.

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