View the Hybrid page on Facebook (will open in a separate browser window).
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Hybrid Lounge was opened in March 2010 by co-owners Nate Fried (a straight man) and Bill Lison (a gay man). Both had previously worked at LaCage dance club. Thus the name "Hybrid" was a natural name, both for the ownership arrangement, and in the intention of the owners as to the type of business they aimed to attract. The name was well chosen: from its inception, it has always attracted a wide variety of customers and patrons: some gay from the upper east side and throughout the county, as well as Brady Street area residents and "straight" people throughout the city.
The bar's first web site (at hybridlounge.net, since discontinued) had a "non smoking" page with the heading "First Non-Smoking Gay Bar". Dated Sunday 14 March 2010, the page read: "With the smoking ban taking effect in July 2010 for the state of Wisconsin, owners Bill Lison and Nate Fried open Hybrid Lounge smoke-free. This enhances the atmosphere and keeps the air clean. You'll notice the difference the moment you enter Hybrid Lounge. No smoke, no ash trays, no burns, it really is exciting to have a place to go and not breathe second-hand smoke while you socialize."
More than being the first non-smoking gay bar in Milwaukee, it's apparent that Milwaukee was ready for a "gay/straight bar" in a sense the area had never seen before. It advertised to the LGBT community as "their" bar, yet blended into the Brady Street area and made it known to local businesses and residents that it was also their bar.
The bar had a good mix of popular weekly activities. Mondays alone featured both poker parties (open to all); and Ru Paul's Drag Race showings (in season). Other nights featured Karoke, Trivia nights, and other activities. The bar also had well attended parties as major holidays approached, usually scheduling those parties on nights other bars in the city aren't likely to compete with their own holiday parties. This brought a good mix of both regulars and party goers.
Several years after opening, the kitchen was opened and food service started. This was largely a success. Open daily from 4pm to 9pm, the lounge offered typical bar fare: burgers, pizzas, wraps, etc. (See menu below.) While there was initially hope by some that Hybrid would take up the mantle of a more complete restaurant (as the M&M Club had once been), a wider variety of entrees have never been offered, and Sunday brunch also never really took off. But the food that was available was always excellent quality and had a regular patronage.
The bar had less success with its dance venue. At times, Fridays or Saturday nights could be packed with drinkers, dancers, and people just enjoying music by the live DJ. But the dance crowds came and went, so some Saturdays could be dead compared to others.
The Hybrid also put forth sports teams, building on Nate Fried's personal athletic bent. Hybrid Lounge sponsored teams in the SSBL (Saturday Softball League) as well as a volleyball team.
Overall the bar was very successful and found a loyal following of customers. The Hybrid Lounge "recipe" proved well thought out: six years into its life, it continued to attract an excellent mix of straight people and members of the LGBT community.
Nate Fried bought out Bill Lison in 2014, and thereafter owned the bar alone. Brian, the chief chef, was co-manager with Nate. Late in 2015, Nate also acquired Angelo's bar next door to the south, and remodeled and reopened that bar alongside the Hybrid Lounge.
But early in 2017, rumors began that the Hybrid bar was for sale. Then, on February 13, 2017, the owner posted the following on Facebook: "Good Evening, despite having a fully funded and guaranteed buyer for Hybrid Lounge, the landlord has chosen not to accept that buyer and not renew Hybrid’s lease. Hybrid will close permanently Saturday night, February 25th. It’s her legal right. This process has been frustrating, but I choose to celebrate the time we have left and would like you to join us. We’ve had 7 years of experiences here including the cities best Karaoke, Poker nights, Drag shows, Comedy shows, incredible DJs, Themed events, Trivia, Birthday parties and Fundraisers, Dart leagues, the Brady Street Festival and the best dice feuds around. Join us in raising a glass. Cheers Milwaukee, Thank You. I love this bar."
Observers were puzzled by the building owner's refusal to grant a new lease to the business. The Hybrid Lounge had provided an important anchor to that end of Brady Street, and continued to be popular among both the LGBT and local community. Why would a building owner throw out a successful business, which had regularly paid rent for 7 years, when other businesses on Brady Street (such as Mimma's and others) had recently closed. It's a loss to the LGBT community and the area as a whole.
An excellent history of the bar and building throughout its history was written by Michael Horne for urbanmilwaukee.com's "Bar Exam" and posted on Nov 30th, 2015. Its description of Hybrid Lounge itself includes the following (only excerpts follow here; see the full article for the full story):
Credits: web site concept and design by Don Schwamb.
Some content from other sources and articles credited above.
Last updated: February-2017.