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

Shadows II- The Top Shelf
Location: 814 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee WI


December 1987
August 1989

Male/ female
Bar/ social



"Shadows II- The Top Shelf" opened on December 11, 1987 in the site of the old Hot Legs bar, operated by Dan Hewett who, along with Matt, was co-owner of the bar. (This was presumably Matthew Gorden, who reportedly owned the building at the time.)

(In a case of deja vu, this same establishment had, previously to Hot Legs, been named Shadows aka Shadows/ Diplomat.)

According to a news article at the time, the decor at Shadows II was "quietly Art Deco with a color scheme of soft pinks, maroons and mauves accented by gentle tones of gray. The lighting is easy on the eyes, sufficient, yet with the right touch of intimacy that is heightened by the lush, thick carpet on the floor." The bar also had a great sound system. The article continues: the bartenders are "goodlooking in gray and maroon and your beer comes in long-stemmed goblets befitting the theme of elegance."

Grand Opening was around Valentine's Day, 1988, but before that, the bar hosted a Christmas dinner free to people "who have nowhere to go" (with a suggestion of a donation to MAP).

In addition to birthday parties and similar events, the bar/ restaurant also hosted meetings, such as those for BWMT/ Black and White Men Together. In mid-1989 business looked up for a time, as the 'Your Place' bar, across the alley from this location, closed, and many of that bar's staff came to work at Shadows II. But after a few months the "Y.P." reopened after some redecorating, and business at Shadows II didn't recover.

The bar closed suddenly after just less than two years. It is last listed in the Bar Guide of In Step magazine vol. 6-15 (August 1989).

This was neither the first nor last LGBT business at this location, many lasting less than a year:

Read a summary of the history of these 8 businesses and their effect on Milwaukee LGBT nitelife written by Project Curator Michail Takach at the Black Forest Legacy page.

Advertisement: Season's Greetings
(In Step vol. 4-22, Dec. 1987)
Article: "Art Deco Elagance enhances Shadows II"
(Wis. Light vol. 1-02, Dec. 1987)
Advertisement: "Easily the Midwest's most beautiful gay bar"
(February 1988)
Advertisement: Sundays reduced prices on juice drinks
(Sept. 1988)
Photos: manager Jimmy,
owner Matthew, birthday group
(In Step vol. 5-19, Oct. 1988)
Photo: St. Patrick's Day party
(In Step vol. 6-06, March 1989)
Photos: Customer Appreciation Party
(In Step vol. 6-10, May 1989)
Ad: Double birthday party
(In Step vol. 6-12, June 1989)
Article: "Now that half the Y.P. staff is working at Shadow's, will it become known as the YP West?"
(The Y.P./ Your Place had recently closed-- as it turned out, only temporarily)
(In Step vol. 6-14, July 1989)
Ad: "Join Jimmy, Ron, Larry,
Jeff & Scott.."
for Complimentary Buffet Tuesday,
Friday Nite Old Style special/ keep the glass
(In Step vol. 6-15, August 1989)
Photo: staffers Larry and Ron
with manager Jimmy
(In Step vol. 6-17, August 1989)

The building as it existed in 2004
(Photo by Don Schwamb, May 2004)

Steppin Out article: After Hot Legs closure,
building owner Matthew Gorden plans to
reopen location as Shadows II
(InStep vol 4-19, Nov. 1987)

Photo: Shadows II owners, Dan Hewett and Matt
(Wis. Light vol. 1-02, Dec. 1987)

One of last Advertisements
(In Step vol. 6-17, August 1989)

Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: March-2023.

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