History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - Businesses - Restaurants

Rainbow Grille
Location: 814 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee WI


October 1977
February 1979

Restaurant & Bar



Rainbow Grille opened shortly after the closing of another gay restaurant/ bar in the same location, the Black Forest Inn. We are not aware whether it was run by the same owners or how the change occurred. But unlike the Black Forest Inn, the Rainbow Grille advertised itself as a restaurant without emphasizing the bar itself as a destination.

The restaurant was open for lunches and dinners, extensively advertising its Sunday Brunches and Prime Rib every Saturday night, with free parking in the lot next door (to the north). At this time, the parking lots for the Your Place bar and this business were back-to-back on the alley between First and Second streets, both available for parking by LGBT patrons.

An early promotion provided patrons with brunch and a ticket for the Packers Game on December 18, 1977 for just $17.50. (At the time, one or two games each year were played at the Milwaukee County Stadium rather than in Green Bay.)

Another ad mentions "Paintings and engravings on exhibition by Robert Uyvari", an artist already well known for his works both in Milwaukee and California.

The Rainbow Grille didn't last beyond about a year. After opening in October of 1977, their last advertisement ran just over a year later, in February 1979.

This was one of several restaurants/bars to operate in this same building in the 1970s to 1990s. One has to wonder if the location was jinxed, as of the 8 businesses, half closed within a year of opening:

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.

First advertisement
(GPU News, Nov. 1977)
(GPU News, Dec. 1977)
'Happy Holiday' daily listings:
Note Dec. 3 Christmas Party and
Dec. 18 Packers Sunday events at Rainbow Grille
(GPU News, Dec. 1977)
(GPU News, Jan. 1978)
Ad: Now serving after hours
(Milw. Calendar vol. 1-04, March 1978)
'Editors Copy' column touts late hours weekends (lower right)
(Milw. Calendar vol. 1-04, March 1978)
Ad: 'Rainbow Trio' playing musical favorites on Friday nights, presumably trying to draw more bar business
(Milw. Calendar vol. 1-09, June 1978)
(GPU News, June 1978)
small Advertisement
(Milw. Calendar vol. 1-18, October 1978)

The building as it existed in 2004
note parking lot to left
(Photo by Don Schwamb, May 2004)

First Advertisement
(GPU News, Nov. 1977)

Last known Advertisement
(Milw. Calendar v.2-26, Feb. 1979)

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

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