History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Charles "Chuck" Cicirello


October 26, 1943
February 1, 2011
Primary Involvements:

Business Operator (bars, other)





Chuck Cicirello is perhaps the most prolific owner/ manager of gay bars in Milwaukee's history. He first opened a bar named Neptune Club in late 1971 or early 1972 (although some people say it was opened in 1968 or 1969). But Chuck became most famous among the gay crowd when he opened The Factory in 1973, which for many years was the largest and most popular gay bar in the city, and is probably its most legendary bar although it closed in 1982. During this time, he also briefly operated a health club/ bath house, Broadway Health Club, on an upper floor from the Factory.

Chuck's start is said to have come from his cousin Jimmy Zingale, who owned the early gay bar Castaways South from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. Jimmy is said to have given Chuck his first bar job in the coat check of said "Castaways" bar.

(Chuck was variously known to people as Chuck Balistreri, Chuck Cicerello, and Chuck Cicirello.)

After closing The Factory, Chuck opened two other "Factory" bars: the Factory II in 1982 at 130 E. Juneau; and the Factory 3 opened on North Broadway north of the expressway. While both popular in their day, neither matched the long-term appeal of, and no bar in Milwaukee has ever come close to the legendary status of, the original "The Factory".

In the early 1980s, Chuck also served as a time as President of BAM, the Business Association of Milwaukee, a coalition of various gay bar owners.

Chuck next opened and managed 27th Street Danceteria, in the late 1980s.

From the late 1990's until its closing in autumn 2005, Chuck managed the Club 219. When that bar closed (probably due to extensive condo development in the area making a new lease of the building impractical), rumor was that Chuck was casting about for a new location to open yet another bar.

Charles died on February 1st, 2011. His obituary read:

    Cicirello, Charles "Chuck" Born into Eternal Life on February 1, 2011, at the age of 67. Beloved husband of Mary (nee Laufenberg). Loving father of Charles and Thomas (Angela) Cicirello. Proud grandpa of Tommy and Teresa. Dear brother of Marie (Al) Bozora. Also survived by his brother-in-law Clifford Pacocha and dear aunt Josephine Zello. Further survived by many other relatives and friends. He was greeted in Heaven by his parents Andrew Cicirello and Grace Balistreri, brother Carl Cicerello, sisters Josephine Waranka and Caroline Pacocha, brother in law Joe Waranka and nephew Nick Waranka. His most precious times were being with his grandchildren and having family gatherings. Chuck especially loved pasta and meatballs every Sunday. Visitation Saturday, February 5, at the funeral home from 9:30AM until the time of service at 11AM. Inturnment at Highland Memorial Park.

Read a full Biography of Chuck Cicirello.

The history of all three "The Factory" bars, and Chuck Cicirello, was published on the OnMilwaukee.com website in 2024.

"Chuck Roast", BAM Roast of Chuck, March 1981
(Gay Milw. vol 4 issue 6)


Photo of "Chuck Balistreri" (aka Chuck Cicirello), August 1980
(Milw. Calendar vol 3 issue 16)

With Wayne Bernhagen, BAM Bar Crawl to Chicago, March 1981
(Gay Milw. vol 4 issue 4)

With Rodney Scheel of Rod's bar, February 1984
(In Step vol 1 issue 1)

Photo with other bar owners, April 1984
(Chuck is 2nd from left)
(In Step vol 1 issue 5)

Credits: Web site concept, design and content by Don Schwamb.
Various articles and photos from In Step magazine.;
Last updated: March-2024.

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