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

 
Just Us
Location: 807 S. 5th Street, Milwaukee WI

Opened:
Closed:

September 28, 1994
July 25, 1998
Clientele:

'LesGay': equally Male and Women
Bar/ social

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Just Us was opened by an attorney from Kenosha (Steve Byers), and a lesbian from Milwaukee (Janet Mueller), and was managed by Lory- who was decked out in a tux for opening night. It is remembered by many as one of the most equally mixed 'LesGay' (men vs. woman) gay bar Milwaukee had seen to date. The bar had a patio, a variety of non-alcoholic drinks, a nice cocktail hour and many weekends there were drag shows or pageants. (Steve Byers did drag from time to time.)

Unusual for the time, the bar also had a "non-smoking Lounge", a glass enclosed room with a separate bar that was designated non-smoking: you could sit or stand around in that room, without being surrounded by smoke, and through the large glass windows watch the action throughout much of the rest of the bar, including the dance floor. (The room was a bit on the small side however, and the segregated feeling and inability to mingle with the rest of the crowd was a definite drawback; while great in concept, it didn't work well and wasn't too popular a room to be in.)

In addition to having a nice stage/ dance floor area, the bar had a full service kitchen. They started with Friday fish fry on tables around the dance floor area on Friday evenings, and gradually added other food items. They also made the space available for area LGBT groups to hold meetings free of charge. Parking was available in a vacant lot across the street.

Unfortunately, the bar didn't last as long as many had hoped. In June 1998, the owners announced that Just Us would be closing. One of the co-owners, Steve Buyers, had recently lost his partner, and Steve decided it was time to move on. The bar held their "Retirement Party" on July 24 and 25 and closed thereafter. (It continued to appear in Bar Directories of In Step newspaper until October, as the guide was only infrequently updated.)

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.)

    ---> Just Us was probably the most equally mixed (men vs. woman) gay bar I have ever seen in Milwaukee. I was sent there on photo shoots a few times over the 4 years it was open. I was covering a drag event there once and brought a date (Don) with me. Let me tell you, it probably wasnít fair to bring a date on photo shoots. I often had to leave the person standing all by themselves while I was running around getting pictures. This was probably our second date and Donís first date with me while I was on a photo shoot. We had a couple of shots (he didnít do shots back then) and a couple of drinks. Halfway through the shoot I looked over at Don and he looked as if he was doing his best to ďkeep it together.Ē I went over and asked if he was ok and he said no. I took him to the bathroom where he puked. I felt so bad for him. I know it embarrassed the hell out of him and a couple people came in to make sure we were ok, making it even more embarrassing. I cut the photo shoot short and we went to my car where I called his wife (they were separating at the time) from my car phone (yes back when they were installed) to tell her Don was way too drunk to come home. She was NOT happy. I took him home and tucked him in bed.

    "Iím not sure why the bar closed but I know parking was an issue and the fact that it was in 5th street. Many gays were afraid to walk in that area for fear of being gay bashed."
                                    - Jamie Taylor (August 2009)

    ---> Just Us had an AWESOME "Fish Fry", similar to the awesome fish fries at M&M club
                                    - Craig G. (via Facebook group)

    ---> Steve and Janet were such awesome bar owners, not to mention all of the work they do for the LGBT community....two of my most favorite people that Ive ever met, gay straight or whatevah!
                                    - Brian K. (via Facebook group)

    ---> Steve Byers was one of the owners, he was a lawyer for the Civil Liberty Union, his partner was Offie Hobs and was also the president of the Brew City Bears. I think part of the problem was the size of the bar (where they served drinks) did not allow very much back and forth movement. Sage met there a bunch of times. I also think that because Steve worked two jobs plus running the bar became too much and lead to the decision to close it.
                                    - Gary R.H. (via Facebook group)

  

Inside the bar: Co-owner
Steve Byers tending bar
(photo by Jamie Taylor c1996)
 
Inside the bar: Jamie's friend Don
trying to "keep it together"
(see "Recollections" above)
(photo by Jamie Taylor c1996)
 
Great view of inside of bar
on Opening Night
(In Step v.11-16, August 1994)
 
 


One of first Advertisements
(In Step v.11-16, August 1994)
 


Owners and managers
on opening night
(In Step v.11-20, Oct. 1994)
 


Advertisement/ Flyer (undated)
(from Jerry Johnson Collection)
 


Closing announcement
(In Step v15-13, June 1998)
 


Final 'Retirement Party' notice
(In Step v15-15, July 1998)
 

Credits: Bar history by Don Schwamb and Jamie Taylor with recollections by other Facebook contributors.
Historical images and scans by Don Schwamb.
Website concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: September-2022.

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