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

Milwaukee Eagle / Shaft Club
Location: 300 W. Juneau


Nov. 1997
approx. 2001

Male/ female
Leather/ Levi Bar/ social



The Milwaukee Eagle was opened in the basement of the Sidney HiH building on November 22, 1997 (Quest 4-20 pgs 13-14+16), in a location which had held another gay bar, the Unicorn, about 15 years previously (when Factory II/ Kisses was popular right across the river to the east). The Eagle was a leather/levi bar with a dance floor, and was initially extremely popular. On Friday and Saturday nights the relatively large dance floor was packed with dancing half-naked men. During its approximately two years of peak business, the Eagle was also home to the largest area leather contests (Daddy's Boy, Mr. Leather, etc.)

The space was entered from the rear (north side) of the building, which at the time was butted almost up to the elevated eastside freeway (which was torn down in 2005)-- so parking was between and around large concrete pylons, and the entrance was shadowy even during the day. The patron first descended a long stairway into a front room which held tables, electronic games, and 2 or 3 pool tables, then turned right (west) into the main bar area. Going farther west via either a doorway in the center of the bar area, or a dark "groping" passageway along the north wall, the visitor entered a large dance area, with a stage to the south and DJ booth to the north.

Farther back to the west, down about 6 stairs, was a second smaller bar room, called The Shaft Club, which required leather or levis for entry, and offered reduced price drinks with a membership card. This bar opened up to a leather cruise area, with cage, sling, wall restraints, etc.

The bar however was on the opposite side of downtown from other gay bars, and after about two years of extremely high popularity, the bar went into decline. About the same time, the bar closed for about 6 months after a fire in the upper level of the building required the structure be closed for repairs due to water and smoke damage. Although the bar eventually reopened, it never attracted its previous crowds, and was closed a few years before the overhead expressway behind the building was torn down.

(An article from "OnMilwaukee.com" dated November 2005 recalls "Milwaukee's Best Bars of Yesteryear", which includes The Unicorn bar at this same location. It reads: "Remember the dingy cave in the basement of the Sidney-HiH building? The Unicorn opened in 1984 and became Milwaukee's premiere underground venue as the '90s dawned. The dank club -- with numerous rooms -- offered incredible underground shows, including Nine Inch Nails before they got famous (anyone else at this show?) and Brand New Heavies.")

    Flyer/Ad: Grand Opening, 1997
    Flyer/Ad, circa 1997

    Photo of interior, circa 1997
    Photo of interior, circa 1997

    Flyer/Ad: 1998
    (from Jerry Johnson Collection)


    Shaft Club News newsletter: Feb./March 1998 issue
    (from Jerry Johnson Collection)

    Shaft Club News newsletter: March/April 1998 issue
    (from Jerry Johnson Collection)

Sydney Hih bldg after a fire

Membership card

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: December-2009.