Despite or perhaps because of its queer-friendly climate, there have long been only a handful of primarily gay bars in central Madison. This is going to change rapidly over the next few months, though, with plans for the new Plan B bar and restaurant just off Willy Street and with the opening of a new establishment downtown named Woof's.
This new bar will be opening at 114 King St., in a space currently occupied by the King Club, a small live music venue whose closing was announced on Monday. "The club closes down as the King Club with our last show on the 19th," explains current co-owner Lisa Gallagher. "We will be closed for one month for extensive remodeling and reopen under a new name."
The new nightspot will primarily cater to Madison's gay community and is inspired by bars in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Amsterdam. Opening this new venture are Dino Maniaci and Jason Hoke, who are also the co-owners of SpaWoof, a relatively new dog groomer and kennel located in the former home of the Dane County Humane Society on the north side. Maniaci also owns the national graphic design and advertising agency MANI [&] Company, and will be turning his stylistic focus to the bar.
"What we're trying to do is create a space and environment for a segment of the population that hasn't really been catered to before," says Maniaci. The focus, he says, is community involvement. As an example, he cites the large membership in gay sports groups in town (such as the Madison Gay Hockey Association and the Madison Minotaurs rugby team) as a potential base of patrons.
"Springboarding off of Madison's ever growing gay sport's league scene; hockey, volleyball, softball as well as bowling, pool and darts, customers will all find a comfortable place for everyone," states a press release announcing Woof's, "including gay athletes to gather, for leagues to hold recruiting events or for casual gay sports fans to unwind and watch their favorite college or professional team compete along with selected typical bar offerings."
The bar will continue to have Indie Queer night and live music occasionally, says Maniaci, along with customized music by national and international DJS. The atmosphere that they're going for, he explains, is one that's more upscale and professional and catering to a crowd that's not quite as young as elsewhere in the collegiate-dominated downtown bar scene.
King Club owners Lisa and Tristan Gallagher will assist with the transition of the space to Woof's over its first year. Lisa will remain focused on the day-to-day operations of staffing, inventory, and licensing requirements as co-manager, working with co-manager Hoke who has experience at the long-established DC Eagle leather bar in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Maniaci will focus on the bar's branding and design, which will feature a "unique industrial edge" along with large screen TVs, pool tables, and dartboards.
The focus of the new bar will not be on live music, notes Gallagher, though Clyde Stubblefield will continue his Funky Mondays gig at Woof's once it opens.
The continuing presence of Funky Mondays and Indie Queer is a sign that Woof's will remain active within the larger King Street entertainment scene. "I was relieved to hear they weren't closing the doors entirely," says says Indie Queer founder and promoter Liz Tymus about the King Club, who also noted "excitement for another venue to add to Madison's LGBT nightlife."
Above all, the bar plans on being inclusive in the grand Madison tradition. "Woof's plans on breaking the 'gay bar' stereotype by creating an environment that allows all patrons (regardless of gender) to celebrate diversity and acceptance and yes, even watching sports!" declares the announcement from Maniaci. It is scheduled to open by early March, kicking off with an "Out of Hibernation" party to celebrate the end of winter.