Gay Bars, United States

Most Popular Gay Bars Madison, Wisconsin

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“Madtown” is one of America’s drunkest and most progressive cities. Get the best of both worlds during your next visit and grab a drink at the best Madison, Wisconsin gay bars.

Front of the Shamrock bar in Madison
BENNET GOLDSTEIN – ISTHMUS

Shamrock Bar & Grille

924 Williamson Street

“The Sham” is Madison’s oldest gay club. It’s a couple of blocks from the capitol and the bar of choice for out-of-town visitors. It’s divey, but on the light-side by Madison standards. Still, you’ll find dive bar favorites like a jukebox and dart boards in the back of the building.

Happy hour runs until 7:00 on weekdays, and brunch on Saturday or Sunday is a community favorite – no matter how much sleep you had the night before.

Patrons are a mix of younger, older with plenty of regulars and new faces. On St. Patrick’s day you’ll also get a bunch of straight people who don’t realize it’s a gay bar. I suggest going to the Shamrock after work, when starting the night – or ending it low key.

Hours

Daily 11:00AM–2:00AM

Specials

Every day, 4–7 PM: half-price on rails, $2 off all other drinks

Saturday & Sunday, 10 AM–2 PM: brunch

Prism [Closed, formerly Plan B]

924 Williamson Street

Prism is Madison’s only gay dance club and has one of the best dance floors in the city (which attracts straight people too). This is where the scene ends up on Friday and Saturday. But to its credit, Prism hosts weekday events including 18+ nights and Drag Show watch parties. You can walk from the Capitol, but most won’t. Keep in mind there’s usually a $10 cover charge on weekends – sometimes more depending on the event. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall atmosphere, which is fun, but a bit more exclusionary than other gay bars in the area. Drinks are more expensive as well. But hey, there’s always the 30 peso beers of Mexico City.

In early 2019, Plan B came under new ownership and was rebranded as Prism.

UPDATE: Prism is closed.

Hours

Wednesday & Thursday: 5 PM–2:00 AM

Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 5 PM–2:30 AM

Specials

Wednesday: $2 Bud Light on draft, $4 Three Olive mixers

Thursday: $4 long islands, $3 PBR

Friday: $5 Absolut, $3 Fireball

Saturday: $5 Tito’s

Happy Hour: Wed-Sat, 5-9 PM, $2 taps, $4 rails, $2 off house cocktails

Gay bartenders at WOOF's in leather gear

WOOF’S Madison

114 King Street

By Madison standards, WOOF’S is different. The crowd is friendly and slants older. And with its fetish-friendly streak, WOOF’s has a dungeon-like atmosphere (i.e., no windows). But it’s approachable – and tame by big-city standards. You can expect to see a dozen tv screens playing slideshows of nude men and a fairly open space for darts or billiards. WOOF’s is cash only, but there’s an ATM in the back by the harnesses. The sidewalk patio with picnic tables is a big plus in the summer. Head there for some fresh air and people watching. The great thing about Madison is you’re liable to run into friends if you sit outside long enough.

Related Post  Guide to Gay Bars Austin, TX

Hours

Wednesday & Thursday: 11:00AM–2:00AM

Friday & Saturday: 5PM–2:30AM

Specials

Monday – Friday, 4–7 PM: half-price drinks from

Monday, 10 PM to close: underwear night, half-price drinks after if you’re (only) wearing underwear

Tuesdays, 10 PM to close: show your tattoo for $1 off every drink

Friday, 8 PM to midnight: $1 off shots

Saturday, 4–7 PM: leather, fetish, and western night, wear a hat or boots and buckles for $1 off every drink

Sunday, 4–7 PM: Free pizza

Five Nightclub

5 Applegate Court

For a gay bar on the highway, Five Nightclub has a lot of heart with relatively cheap drinks and heavy pours. It’s a big space with multiple bars and good bartenders.

Nightly events are hard to keep track of because there’s so many of them. You’ll find some great drag shows here and a hit-or-miss dance floor on the weekends. People are friendly, and there’s an active community built around the club. Unfortunately, Five is a ten-minute drive from downtown. You’ll want to hop an Uber or Lyft.

Hours

Daily: 4 PM–2:30 AM

Specials

Every day, 4 PM–7 PM: $3 domestic beers, $3 rails

Sotto

303 N Henry Street

Sotto isn’t quite a gay bar, but it is gay-friendly. The downstairs dance space has a mixed reputation for poor management. Cover can be strange and unexpected, like a $3 charge for entering after midnight. That said, it’s your best bet for electronic music and sweaty dancing. Check it out and see what you find.

Hours

Wednesday & Thursday: 11:00AM–2:00AM

Friday & Saturday: 5PM–2:30AM

Specials

Thursday: $2 long islands and margs

Friday: $3 pinnacle shots or rails

Saturday: $6 double Captain Morgan rails

Conclusion

Madison is a gay-friendly city that has time and time again ranked high for livability. I’d say the sky full of construction cranes is proof the secret it out. But the good-natured people, progressive politics, and high levels of education aren’t going anywhere. As a former governor of Wisconsin once said in his criticism of the city, “Madison is 30 square miles surrounded by reality.”

Sounds nice to me. But if you need something a little warmer in the winter, check out the gay bars of Kansas City.

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Gay pride flag on the steps of Madison's capitol


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