Safe and welcome.
That’s how Dave Wolz felt when he started hanging out with La Cage in Milwaukee more than three decades ago.
“It was a place for me to understand my sexuality and meet people who had the same mentality that I had been hiding for those years,” he said.
Recently, Wolz became the new owner of the iconic dance club – and he wants to make sure it continues to be a “safe place” for members of the city’s LGBTQ community, just as it was for him. And he also has new ideas up his sleeve, including burlesque shows and bingo.
“We provide entertainment and an outlet for LGBT people to find other people in their own community and other people who are allies,” Wolz said.
Going from patron to owner
La Cage, which opened in 1984, was the first gay bar Wolz visited. At that time, it was an “exciting” video dance bar playing tracks and remixes he had never heard before.
“It was the first place I went when I came out and it has a special place in my heart,” said Wolz, a graduate of Wauwatosa East High School and Lawrence University.
Over the years, Wolz befriended the founders of La Cage: George Prentice and Corey Grubb.
Prentice and Grubb owned the company until 2005, when Kris Heindel and Michael Jost took it over, according to an earlier report from the Journal Sentinel.
A few years ago, the founders returned to ownership to give the facility an overhaul after hearing it was facing financial difficulties, according to a 2018 Milwaukee Business Journal report.
Fast forward to last winter: While Wolz was in Florida visiting Prentice and Grubb, he said, they were talking about being ready to walk away from the business.
“I was like, ‘This can’t turn into something else,'” Wolz said. “It has to stay true to La Cage.”
There are “very few” LGBTQ bars and dance clubs, in general, in the area, Wolz explained.
After inheriting a bit of an inheritance after his father’s death, Wolz — who owns a company that makes software for veterinary hospitals — decided to buy the company.
“I almost see him as a caretaker for another generation until someone else takes over in 10, 15 or 20 years,” he said. “I see it as an institution in Milwaukee that needs to be saved, it needs to be continued, it needs to continue its legacy.”
What La Cage offers
Wolz described La Cage, located at 801 S. Second St., as a “multi-location” dance club with a dance floor; a lower level bistro lounge where people can order food and play pool; a show room on the upper level; and six bars.
“There is a different sense of energy in different areas of the club,” he said.
La Cage’s lineup includes drag shows Thursday through Sunday; karaoke on Thursday; local DJs and guests from Thursday to Saturday; an AYCD (all you can drink) Thursday wristband offer ($14 for the train, $20 for the call, $30 for the premium and $5 for the sodas); and happy hour from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily with two-for-one railway drinks and beer, and $1 off other drinks.
In addition to drinks — including about eight draft beers, craft beers, ciders and craft cocktails — La Cage also has a small kitchen that serves “traditional bar fare with a slight upscale twist,” said Wolz, including homemade tacos, Mexican rue corn, wings, mozzarella sticks, burgers, fries and more.
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Strengthen happy hour, add more entertainment
Wolz officially took over the business in mid-June, and the physical building that houses La Cage was recently purchased by a real estate investor, according to Wolz.
The club did not miss a beat.
“All my anticipation was to have the club, to sit there, observe it and figure out a few little things that we’re going to try to do,” Wolz said.
So far, Wolz has started bolstering the company’s happy hour.
Instead of holding it in the lower level bistro lounge bar, he said, it was moved to the main bar on the corner with an open door and windows “to get more light and happiness and more of neighborhood connectivity”.
In the future, Wolz said he plans to add aerobatic/silk and burlesque shows, special musical guests and performances, as well as “Boi” Bingo.
La Cage hours of operation are 4 p.m. until the bar closes Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. until the bar closes on Sunday.
For more information on La Cage, visit lacage.club or facebook.com/LaCageNiteclub.