As stereotypes often play out, gay bars are often considered venues where music plays on full blast and gay men dance and frolic shirtless while lesbians engage in witty banter on the side. But Woof’s, previously The King Club, is hoping to bring an athletic twist to Madison’s gay bar scene.
The King Club was a regular staple of downtown Madison nightlife, as it often hosted concerts on its small stage and provided events like “Indie Queer Night.” The venue was small enough that when people came out for a show or event, it appeared filled from wall to wall with people looking for a good time. The King Club wasn’t a stranger to the college crowd, but it also had no mission statement for what clientele it was seeking.
Woof’s, on the other hand, describes itself as a sports bar for the professional gay men and women of Madison, and new ownership is looking to break away from the college scene. Yes, it may seem odd to couple “gay” and “sports bar” together, but Woof’s is attempting to add a different niche to Madison’s gay community, and its model resembles similar efforts in Los Angeles, New York and Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, many other gay clubs in Madison fall into stereotypical categories, or aren’t appealing enough. Club 5, the every night of the week excuse to party, is almost out in Fitchburg and is quite a bus ride. It’s not close enough to the heart of nightlife in Madison. The de facto downtown gay bar, the Shamrock, was described by a guy at Woof’s as a “dive bar for toads.”
Regardless of what that says about either bar’s clientele, Woof’s is far from a hole-in-the-wall establishment. The lighting is bright — odd for a bar — and everything appears to be polished and pristine. However, the bar also is smaller than you’d expect, despite the massive space in the middle of the establishment. This void is a source of confusion, as it isolates patrons in different sections of the bar.
Although there is a considerable amount of space in Woof’s, it is oddly challenging to find a place to sit. The only seating options are at the bar itself or the “chill area” on a platform, previously a stage. The area is stocked with a leather loveseat and two black chairs with stools sporadically placed about, forcing patrons to stand or make new friends on the loveseat.
It’s doubtful anyone is going here for the drinks, but specials include half-price Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m., a Make-Your-Own Margarita Bar on Sundays and Friday “Tail Waggin’ Shot Specials.”
The bar is aimed more toward men than women — after all, it is a sports bar. There are pictures of shirtless athletic men plastered on the walls — as tastefully as that sort of thing goes — with one token picture of women athletes. All five plasma televisions were, of course, on sports channels. However, there is a special plasma television set dedicated to odd film clips of a buff, scary-looking man doing very odd things.
Accordingly, the scene last Monday seemed dominated by men. I saw men of all kinds — older men, younger men, men playing darts, men playing pool and men at the bar. This wasn’t a full house by any means, but it was only a Monday night. A woman sitting next to me (one of three in the entire establishment) turned to me quizzically, wondering what I was writing and said, “Where are all the lesbians?” But aside from her lack of female company, the woman’s only complaints were that the lettering of the Woof’s sign appeared too much like a college font, as “it may give the wrong impression.” Her friend, a guy, thought the pool table sucked because of the white felt against the cue ball.
But Woof’s just needs a little time to get on its feet. It’s inevitable that this type of bar would spring up. Woof’s can be for anyone who likes sports, or it can be the new promiscuous meat market for the professional gay man.
Upcoming events at Woof’s include “Beg for It” on April 5, which is an April Fools’ celebration/S&M gala geared for men, and “Coyote Ugly” nights for women which are yet to be announced.