Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kathy's Nut Hut

Kathy's Nut House logo (around 1995)
Kathy's Nut Hut

Location: 1500 West Scott Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Opened: 1982 (also reported as 1980)

Closed: February 2014




Nut Hut is closed
Dawn Musbach, most recent
owner of Nut Hut 

In 2011, my friend Dave Mikolajek – you might know him as "College Dave" – introduced me to Kathy’s Nut Hut (usually referred to as simply "Nut Hut"), 1500 W. Scott St.

It had already been around for more than two decades and I was eager to tell the story of this wonderful neighborhood LGBT bar.

Dave told me today that the Nut Hut is closed. The owners, supposedly, sold the bar to a new owner. At this point, not much else is known.

The original owner, Kathy Krau, sold the business a few years ago to friend and Nut Hut bartender, Michelle Murphy, who ran the business with her partner, Dawn Musbach.

The first three paragraphs of the piece I wrote in 2011 sum up the place quite well, I think.

Kathy Krau did not intend to open a lesbian bar when she opened Kathy's Nut Hut, 1500 W. Scott St., in 1982. She says she thought she was opening primarily a "straight" bar, especially since she inherited the mostly heterosexual neighborhood clientele from the previous bar.

But it didn't take long for gay women, particularly those involved on softball and pool teams, to find the place. Word traveled fast through the lesbian community that Krau, who is gay, opened a comfortable, affordable tavern.

What happened next is almost idyllic. The old-school clientele, members of the LGBT community and young, new guys from the neighborhood started hanging out in the same space. And they interacted. And they got along.

I am sorry to see the Nut Hut go. It was another example of Milwaukee’s ability to practice tolerance and acceptance. I hope to report more on Nut Hut – and what will become of the space – when the information becomes available.

Here's more from the earlier article referenced above:

Nut House interior (2012)
The secret to Nut Hut's three-decade-long success, she [Dawn Musbach] says, is the diversity, the tradition and the prices. Pints of beer are $2 and bottles, including imports, are $3. They have nightly specials, like Tipsy Tuesday, offering up $5 pitchers and $2 shots of Jack Daniels and 2-4-1 Thirsty Thursdays.

Plus, they often serve food during baseball and football games, and not just the typical crock pot of chili. During a recent Packers game they had Indian tacos. Whenever there are leftovers, a woman from across the street comes over and delivers the food to neighborhood people and shelters.

"Whether people knew us as Kathy's or Nut Hut, they know that we're good people and our prices are cheap," says Musbach.

Nut Hut has continued the softball tradition and still has teams today. They also have dart leagues, a pool table, video games (including Ms. Pac Man) and, up until recently, karaoke. Bruce Tabora, a dear friend of the owners who passed away last summer, hosted the karaoke nights and Musbach says it hasn't felt right to bring back the event just yet.

2011 brought a lot of loss into Murphy's and Musbach's lives, which was the main reason why they did not participate in the Pride Parade last June, even though they had created a float almost every year prior and won multiple trophies.

There is a large collage of photos of Tabora hanging on the wall of the bar, not far from another cluster of photos memorializing other employees and friends who have passed away. Over the years, they have had many raffles to raise money for ill employees and customers or their families.

"If somebody needs someone, we step up to the plate," says Musbach.

Musbach says she and Murphy, who have been together for six years, have traveled to many other cities, and are yet to find a bar with the same vibe as Nut Hut. Despite the hardships, which include a challenging economy, they know they have something pretty special.

"We have it really good here. People are really accepting," she says. "There's been no trouble here. None."

Here's the account from History of Gay & Lesbian Life, Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Kathy's Nut Hut
Kathy's Nut Hut, widely known as The Nut Hut, was opened approximately 1980 by (who else) Kathy. Long quasi-gay (with a wide lesbian clientele), the bar "officially" was pronounced by the owner as a lesbian/ gay bar late in 1992, when it began advertising in In Step. (IS SO 9-25)

Kathy owned the bar for about 22 years, until selling it to Michelle in about 2002. Michelle continued to operate the bar, known simply as The Nut Hut, as an openly lesbian/gay bar, with a sizeable regular clientele and good relations in the neighborhood. The bar closed in February 2014.

Customer reviews were mixed--as they invariably are. At yelp, there was at least one patron who complained of crime at the Nut Hut:

People get robbed, held at gun point, food sucks, pool table is pretty much unavailable all night, patrons fight ALL the time, no security in a high crime neighborhood.

So, if you can deal with the chance that you will get robbed and nobody cares enough to help you or call the cops, it is worth the cheap drink. However, I'd keep my visit during daylight hours and pretty short.

But over at FourSquare, the reviews were pretty positive. One example:

It's just like "cheers" good times, great place, great lady
Tori N. · June 13, 2010

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