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University of Wisconsin Madison College Life During the 1960s: Top Ten Off-Campus Bars

Paul was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the '60s and also served in the Navy during America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

University of Wisconsin Campus


College Life

It has been several years since I was an undergraduate student living on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. From 1962 until my graduation in 1966 I lived in both dormitories and a fraternity. These were exciting years for me, and I will always remember student life. Besides attending classes 15-17 hours a week, a lot of time was spent studying in libraries, dorms, and fraternity rooms. When my friends and I weren't studying, there were so many social events such as dorm and fraternity parties, picnics on Picnic Point, and beer suppers with sororities. Another major social event outside of classes and studying was hanging out with your dorm roommates, friends, fraternity brothers, and sorority sisters at one of the many off-campus bars.

Top Ten Off-Campus Bars

As I recollect my student life at the University of Wisconsin during the 60s, these would have to be my top ten bars off-campus:

1. The Badger Tavern: The Badger Tavern, or B.T. as we fondly called it, was located on University Avenue across the street from Agriculture Hall. I'm ranking it as number one because it was the favorite hangout for me and my dorm friends during most of my campus life. Since I lived in the Lakeshore Residence Halls next to Lake Mendota, The B.T. was a lot closer to my dorm than the bars on State Street. It was a hit for us because it was small and cozy and had two great bartenders, Joe and Tony. We went there usually on Friday and Saturday evenings to drink pitchers of tap beer, shoot pool, and play the pinball machines. Palooka was my favorite.

2. The Kollege Klub: The Kollege Klub or K.K. was across from the main campus library on the corner of Lake and State Streets. The K.K. was most frequented by the students who were living in the fraternity and sorority houses on Langdon and Lake Streets. It was much bigger than the Badger Tavern, and I remember it having a lot of pictures of football team members. I spent a lot of time there with my fraternity brothers after I pledged a professional chemistry fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma, during my senior year in 1966. When I was taking a calculus course during the first semester of my freshman year, our math instructor held a class in the K.K. one late morning right before Christmas break.

3. Johnnie's A-Go-Go: Johnnie's was a small go-go bar located on University Avenue about six blocks east of the B.T. It was a popular spot because it had two of the best go-go dancers in town; Alice from Dallas and Chris.

4. The Pub: The Pub was on State Street about two blocks away from the Kollege Klub up towards the State Capitol Building. This watering hole was also a favorite hangout for me in 1966. One of the most interesting activities was sitting on a barstool with a drink next to the window and watching all the different people walk by on the sidewalk.

5. Chesty's: This bar was a favorite hangout for the townies who were noncollege students. I remember it being located on State Street across from The Pub. My friends and I would go there when we wanted to hustle noncollege girls for dates.

6. The Amber Grid: The Amber Grid was formerly known as the Hasty Tasty or H.T. before it was renovated in 1964 or 1965. I never went to the H.T. when I first got to campus, but I have heard stories about a varsity football player throwing knives at the dartboard in this bar in 1962. When my dorm friends didn't go with me to the B.T., we would socialize at the Amber Grid, especially on Sunday evenings when we would eat there because our residence dining hall was closed.

7. The Three Bells: I vaguely remember that this bar was located on University Avenue about halfway between the Amber Grid and Johnnie's a Go-Go. Although The Three Bells was a townie bar, my friends and I would frequent the place to go "buffalo hunting ". "Buffalo hunting " was hitting on or trying to hustle the chicks who were mostly pleasantly plump.

8. Nicks: Nicks was located on State Street away from campus and very near the Orpheum Theater. Unlike the other beer bars ranked 1-7, Nicks served hard drinks and you had to be 21 to enter. You could get into the beer bars if you were 18. After I pledged to the fraternity, my closest fraternity brother and I spent a lot of time there. I'll always remember the Greek owner, Nick, and his bartender, Glenn.

9. The Varsity Bar: The Varsity Bar or Var Bar much like The Pub and Kollege Klub was a favorite hangout for campus students. It was smaller than The Pub and K.K. and also had pictures of football players. I don't remember spending much time there with my friends or fraternity brothers.

10. The Paradise Lounge: Paradise like Nicks was a 21-year-old bar. It was located quite a distance from campus in the vicinity of the State Capitol Building. I remember this bar featuring a palm tree. A couple of my fraternity brothers and I spent a few times there.

Although there were other bars that my friends, acquaintances, and I visited during our campus life in the 1960s, I will always remember my experiences in these top ten off-campus bars.

The Kollege Klub in 2012

Former Location of the Pub

The Pub on State Street used to be located where the Saloon is now.  Picture taken in June 2019.

The Pub on State Street used to be located where the Saloon is now. Picture taken in June 2019.

Top Ten Off-Campus Bars

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 09, 2020:

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I was a grad student in Madison 1972-1973 but never went to the 602 to get a Plaza Burger.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 08, 2020:

What years are you referring to, James? I cannot remember the Plaza and the 602 Club. The Nitty Gritty sounds familiar but I never made it there. Thanks for commenting and the memories.

James on September 08, 2020:

The Plaza on Henry St. just off State St. was where a lot of we humanities majors and Daily Cardinal staffers hung and conspired. Also Bob and Gene's and the 602 Club on University. We got our live music fixes at the Nitty Gritty.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 14, 2018:

Jill, I was introduced to the Hasty Tasty on University Avenue in 1962 when I was a Freshman at UW. I never went into this bar, but I heard stories that one of the football players, Ray Marcin, used to get drunk and throw knives in the HT. I never learned who owned the HT. you probably know that it was remodeled and became the Amber Grid in either 1964 or 1965.

Jill on June 13, 2018:

I’m looking for information about Cameron Hubanks, one of the owners of the Hasty Tasty, back in the day. Any memories? Or info? Thank you.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 08, 2017:

Yes, I remember the Whisky a Go-Go in 1972. In 72 there was a bar off of Capital Square called the Dangle. It had both male and female nude dancing!! Thanks for the comments.

Scott Michaelis on November 08, 2017:

my friends and I went to most the the bars mentioned here. we especially drank beer at Chestys-- had some experiences at the three bells, kind of a rowdy hang out..some of the wild places were just off the capital square- topless dancers were very refreshing to watch :-) Whisky a go-go was fun also..

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 02, 2017:

Actually, the Badger Tavern or BT was much more of a hangout than the 3 Bells. I only remember spending time in the 3 Bells in 1965. I'm sure that most of the liberal progressive university students still disrespect the military. Thanks for your comments.

FarmAnimal on April 02, 2017:

I remember the 3 Bells very well. It had the best bratwurst ever. I was in the AF at Truax and we were told to never wear our uniforms off campus because of the hatred of the military near campus. I've spent many nights in that bar and it often didn't go well. I went from Madison to Viet Nam for 2 years. I will never forget the disrespect we got from University students. That why I really enjoy every defeat of the u of w football and basketball by my OSU Buckeyes. LOL

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 13, 2012:


Ann, Thanks for reading and the comments. I remember that there was a pizza place on the corner of ? and State Strteet called Paisans. Did you live above there? Yes, I remember the bar across from Camp Randall, but I'm not sure of its name. Was it the Stadium Bar or Jingles?

Ann S. MD on September 12, 2012:

I came to campus in the summer of 1966 and entered medical school in the fall. The next 4 years were a little different. The anti Vietnam war demonstrations changed "panty raids" to more dangerous and violent protests. My husband and I lived on State St, above a pizza place and we had tear gas cannisters thrown into our stairwell. Even though we lived on State St, being a med student and a grad student, we didn't participate much in the drinking scene. But if we did, we went to a bar that was across from Camp Randall on Regent Street. Does anyone recall the name of that bar?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 23, 2012:

Peggy, it has been almost 14 years since I was last on the UW Madison campus. When I was there, the Kollege Klub and Pub were still there. The others were gone. Thanks for the comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 23, 2012:

Sounds like you have some fond memories of those days. Wonder how many of those same bars exist today? It has been a while since I have thought of "go go dancers." Ha!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 16, 2012:

Thanks for the exact information and reading the hub.

bill disney on March 16, 2012:

The Three Bells was located near the campus on University Avenue between Park and Francis Streets

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 04, 2012:

I have fond memories of the bartenders, Joe and Tony. Were they still around in the mid to late 80s?

badger ghost on March 04, 2012:

The B.T. was STILL the best bar in the mid to late 80s when it was my regular hangout!

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