R Place was opened on May 23, 1996, partly as a result of a recent fire that destoryed Madison's LGBT landmark, the Hotel Washington. That building had housed 2 LGBT bars (Rod's and New Bar), an LGBT restaurant (Cafe Palms), and other gay-friendly businesses; and its loss was a shock to the Madison community as well as many out-of-town visitors.
According to news reports, R Place was opened by Daniel Neuman (aka Newman), formerly a bartender at the Shamrock Bar & Grille, just 2 doors away on the same block in downtown Madison. A photo shortly after opening also names Richard Maden (aka Fromm) as an owner. They created a bar with an intimate feel, a fireplace with cozy seating, as well as a dance floor. The space had an Art Deco feel to it, including the white block front entrance.
Within 2 months, the bar was already being called "one of the more popular spots in Mad Town". A description goes on to say: "R Place has four theme rooms. The Fire Place room offers a quiet intimate atmosphere for those special moments. The Dance Room includes a large dance floor and a stage for shows, the Game Room includes a pool table, darts and video games and the Bar Room contains a large bar with generous pours."
While off to a great start, there was suddenly a notice in 'Wisconsin Light' newspaper reading "R Place to reopen as Scandals". The change was necessary because the liquor license holder, Danny Newman, had left Madison with no intention of returning. (Madison requires liquor license holders to reside within the city.) The full situation is described in a story in Wisconsin Light newspaper (see below). (Rumors at the time were that Danny had skipped town with cash, and thus the bar would be reborn as a result of a scandal. Good story, but the truth is somewhat different as the article explains.)
R Place was thus just the first in a long line of names for an LGBT bar in this location (121 W. Main Street, Madison) over a period of just 4 years:
Any additional information is available from anyone willing to contribute it.
Credits: web site concept, design and contents by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: September, 2022.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.