Bay View’s venerable Cactus Club will be the first Milwaukee venue to take advantage of a new (or updated, rather) license that makes it easier to host all-ages shows. Tuesday morning at a Licenses Committee hearing, Cactus Club manager Kelsey Kaufmann applied for the recently amended “Center for Visual and Performing Arts” license. The license allows small clubs to do what large clubs had been able to do for decades in Milwaukee—host shows open to folks both under 21 and over 21, and serve alcohol to those over 21. Kaufmann, along with many others, helped change the requirements of that license back in October 2019.
In the past, performance spaces were not allowed to serve alcohol to folks 21 and over and also open their doors to folks under 21. Large venues like Turner Hall, Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, and The Rave got around this rule by being licensed as “centers for the visual and performing arts.” One of the requirements of the license was that venues had to have a stage larger than 1,200 square feet, or boast a “culturally significant display of artwork.” This kept many small clubs from qualifying, though downtown bar This Is It! successfully obtained one of these original licenses after installing a semi-permanent LGBTQ history exhibit.
But thanks to the changes approved last year, venues now only need to have a “designated performance space” to qualify. That’s it. Easy. Simple.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Kaufmann explained that Cactus Club will use a multi-colored wristband system to determine who can and cannot drink. An additional floor person will also keep tabs on any possible issues both in and outside the club. Kaufmann also noted that Cactus Club would soon begin offering more non-alcoholic beverages on tap, including sparkling water and Nitro coffee from Pilcrow Coffee Roasters.
The application passed on a 5-0 vote. Final approval is set for the next general Common Council meeting on February 11.
Back in December, Cactus Club revealed its all-ages plans with an online events survey. “We would love to hear from you as we move forward with programming a variety of events and shift into an all-ages and 18+ performance and community event space in early 2020,” reads the survey. “We want people from many communities to feel a sense of agency and welcomeness in organizing and attending events. Many thanks for your thoughts, time and ideas! We look forward to collaborating with you.”