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

Shamrock Bar
Location: 177 W. Main St.


(still open 2006)

Male/ female
Bar/ social/ grille



The Shamrock bar is one of Madison's most long-lived GLBT bars. Just a block off the Capitol square, The Shamrock has been the one downtown gay/lesbian bar during much of its lifetime. (During its early years the Cardinal Bar about 10 blocks away was its nearby competition, althought the stronger contender were the farther away Rod's, and later Club 5. There was some strong local competition for a time: two doors west, a building hosted a series of gay bars, including for a while the Rainbow Room, and sporting various other names, such as Scandals.)

Throughout its lifetime, the Shamrock has been both a friendly place for a drink, and a great place to get an excellent burger, sandwich, or frires from the grill. The staff is always friendly, and the Irish owner for much of its time was well known for dressing up on occasion.

Upon entering the establishment, in the front room were a long bar along the left (east) wall, and on the right (west) wall were lined about 6-8 tables with stools, with a pool table near the back of this room. Just at the front was a large screen TV, great for watching Badgers games and other events. Moving toward the back, rest rooms were on the left (the men's room was long and narrow, one couldn't help but bump up against another person). Farthest back through a doorway was another smaller but more intimate bar, and a rear exit. (In fall 2006, the rest rooms and back bar were undergoing renovation.)


Advetisement, March 1987
In Step, vol. 4 issue 4

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2006.