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

Location: 808 E. Center Street


June 1975
January 1986

Bar/ social



The Finale was opened by two male lovers, Earl and Frank, and is remembered as a fun neighborhood bar that also drew a good crowd from throughout the city. The bar originally occupied just the front part of the building (entering the bar, the bar was on the right with tables against the wall on the left), but by January of 1976 had opened a second area a few steps higher in the rear half of the building, with dancing. The owners and bartenders knew their frequent customers well and had occasional after-bar parties for friends.

The bar was known for fun costume and dress-up parties for special occasions (Halloween, New Years, etc.) among a clientele who would typically make it a single stop night, staying until closing (as opposed to patrons of the downtown bars who would frequently bar hop on such nights).

The August 1976 issue of the local "GLIB Guide" describes the business as follows: "Elegant lounge, quiet chatter, neighborhood social, dancing."

The Finale was sold to Bobb Schendel (who had been a bartender) in 1983.

The bar was closed after a fire gutted the place in January of 1986. Manager Danny, who lived behind the bar, was treated for smoke inhalation.

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same! (Recollections collected and organized by Jamie Taylor.)

    ---> "I worked at the Finale after Bobby came in to C'est La Vie and offered me a job. I started on Sunday afternoons and quikly picked up cocktail hour every day. I heard so many stories about the place when Frank & Earl owned it. Stories of them locking the doors so they could all "have fun". David L. passed out under the pinball machine. There were plenty of days when the opening person had to lower the pool table light because the night before it was raised for… well… make up your own story… I pissed off many customers there on Sundays because I didn’t understand at the time that Sundays are for relaxing. (Most of the clientele was in their mid 30’s and older.) I am now that guy, bitching about how loud the music is.

    "The fire: Danny Morton and I had apartments above the bar. He had the larger rear apartment and I had the front apartment. One night Danny came banging on my door telling me there was a fire. We all got out including my dog Ruffles. Lots of smoke damage but livable. Not a week later I was coming home from partying downtown when I saw fire engines in front of the place yet again. I freaked out because Ruffles was in there. I was relieved when a firefighter (probably the same one from the fire before) brought me to his fire engine where Ruffles was safely inside. The fire gutted the bar and all my stuff (and Danny's) was ruined. That was the end of Finale. It was rumored that the owner torched the place because he was losing money (but that's only a rumor)."
                                    - Jamie Taylor (Aug-2009)

    ---> "Finale was a fun bar on holidays, and had the added advantage that it was the closest bar to where I lived (on the east side). But one New Year's Eve, even that wasn't close enough: that was the New Year's Eve of a huge blizzard in Milwaukee, and as we got into the wee hours, we realized we might be stranded there. Sure enough, we found our cars buried in snow, no snow plows in sight, and the roads impassable. No problem- after the bar finally locked the front doors, a small group of us stayed, and things took their natural course. As I recall, when we all woke up, finding any clothes that was our own was something of a challenge."
                                    - Don Schwamb (July-2009)

    Finale Star newsletter, June 1984
    Finale Star newsletter, July 1984

    Inside the bar: Bobby Schendel (owner) and Jamie Taylor (lower left)
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)
    Inside the bar: Bobby Schendel (owner)
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)
    Inside the bar: Danny Morton (manager)
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)

    Inside the bar: bartender Jamie Taylor under the famous clock
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)

    Inside the bar after the fire
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)
    Inside the bar after the fire
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)
    Jamie Taylor shown inside the bar after the fire
    (photo by Jamie Taylor c1985-86)

GPU News, July 1975

GPU News, Sept. 1975

Mardi Gras advertisement
GPU News, February 1976

1st Anniversary flyer/ advertisement, July 1976

Advertisement, March 1984

Advertisement, May 1985

Advertisement, Spin the Wheel
notice motto: "The Jellybean Bar"

Fire guts the bar, Jan. 1986
(Steppin Out- In Step vol 3 issue 1)

Finale building as it appeared in 2006,
20 years after closing
(photo by Don Schwamb)

Finale building as it appeared in 2006,
20 years after closing
(photo by Don Schwamb)

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