Disco was fading when Bobby Bell opened Papagaio in December 1981. Inspired by crackling Rio nightlife, Papagaio spun—and hosted—the most groundbreaking 1980s acts. The bar’s popularity increased with the opening of Underground, an upstairs live music venue.
Primarily a "straight" bar, Papagaio hosted Wednesday-only gay nights (using the old Park Avenue/ Sundays as a model).
When the drinking age raised to 21, the bar reinvented as Club New York before closing in August 1987.
According to "MilwaukeeRockPosters.com": "Papagaio was a short-lived club that was run for a while as the Underground by Tony Selig, which was odd since you had to climb UP the stairs to get in. But it made sense since Tony had been running a club a few doors down with the same name. It was also known as Club New York for a short time. The building has since been torn down, along with the original Underground."
An article from "CudahyNOW.com" in April 2007 reports that the bar from Papagaio was preserved and reused in The City Lounge, at 3455 E. Layton Ave.: "The back and extensive front bar were both preserved from Papagaio's, the popular downtown bar/concert venue from the 1980s, and were restored to look as good as new."
(A book, "LGBT Milwaukee" by Michail Takach, seeks to make the story of LGBT Milwaukee accessible, visible, and portable for future generations--before it is too late. Papagaio is one of many early LGBT landmarks documented in the book.)
More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.
Credits: contents, web site concept and design by Don Schwamb.
Additional research by Michail Takach;
One photo used by special permission of Milwaukee County Historical Society.
Last updated: August-2016.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.