The Belmont Hotel Coffee Shop, while not strictly 'gay', was listed in national Gay Guides-- sometimes as "after hours coffee place", other times simply as "Mixed". The hotel was built in 1926 on the corner of Wells and 4th, with the hotel fronting on Wells St. and the Coffee Shop on the 4th Street side; the building was razed in 1996. The period during which the hotel bar or coffee shop was considered a 'gay hangout' is believed to be from the mid-1940's until at least 1971.
Per historian Michail Takach, The Gaytime bar next door closed in June 1968 after a violent shootout and attempted robbery. That building was razed in December 1968 for surface parking. By 1996, that small surface parking lot had grown to encompass almost two entire city blocks from 4th to 6th, from Wisconsin to Wells -- leaving only the Belmont Hotel left in a massive sea of concrete. It's almost impossible to imagine a time when these were dense city blocks packed with life. Today, it's the east end of the Wisconsin Center.
(As shown below, while the next-door Gaytime Bar was listed in nearly every national Gay Bar Guides only from about 1965 to 1967, the Belmont Hotel Coffee Shop was listed only off and on in national gay guides, until at least 1971.)
Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
National gay guide research by Don Schwamb.
Gaytime Bar history by Michail Takach.
Last updated: June-2021.
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