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Hybrid Lounge 2010-2017: the End of an Era

Feb. 28, 2017
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I often judge an eatery by its biscuits and gravy. Hands down, the best in town were served at Hybrid Lounge. 

Opened in 2010, Hybrid soon became a one-stop-shopping kind of place that offered everything one could want in a neighborhood corner bar: friendly staff, good drinks, good food and good company. With LGBTs moving into the Lower East Side, it was the natural go-to place. 

As the anchor bar of Brady Street at the intersection of Holton, Water and Van Buren, Hybrid easily integrated into the mainstream nightlife of that historic neighborhood, bustling as it does with its discrete diversity. It expanded the community presence there, joining BESTD Clinic, a long-established LGBT health facility located further east down Brady. Of course, Hybrid was also a major chord in the harmonious vibe of The Brady Street Festival. Replete with its famous drag show, it’s the Lower East Side’s summer climax of the artsy, progressive, trendy and hipster scenes that seamlessly intersected there. But Hybrid climaxed year round.

Aside from its strategic location, it had windows that integrated the bar into the comings and goings on the street beyond. It was in many ways reminiscent of M&M, that historic Third Ward haunt when it shed its covered windows and made the once-clandestine LGBT scene inside a part of the world outside. None of Milwaukee’s few remaining gay and lesbian bars can boast that amenity.

And like M&M, the no-frills corner lounge served as a community center of sorts. There were game nights, karaoke, drag shows, darts and great DJs. People held parties there. Groups including the gay Log Cabin Republicans met there. I was told there was even a group of gay priests who concelebrated there. Milwaukee Gay Arts Center softball team once held its Dairyland Classic fundraiser there. It was on a hot Saturday afternoon in high summer. Inside and outside at its sidewalk tables, the place was abuzz with SSBL players long into the night. Mercifully, there were convenient MCTS bus stops framing the intersection allowing patrons to disperse in their preferred directions.

Speaking of SSBL, Hybrid fielded its own team, the Hybrid Harlots, which played in the recreational division. They were resolute players, albeit on occasion a bit hungover, who usually made their games.

The end came rather suddenly. Announced just two weeks before its final night on Feb. 25, it barely gave its fans time to grieve and order a burger and a round. There were a few last parties and a karaoke night before Hybrid’s final last call. 

What will become of the quaint old building is anyone’s guess at the moment. Brady Street is going through some seismic changes with major destinations Mimma’s and Cempazuchi’s recently having closed. Perhaps the old Hybrid might become another pricy small plate joint. But more likely, it’ll be razed for condos with views of the romantic Holton Street Bridge, west over the roofs of other condos and, eastward, of once-charming Brady Street. 

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