Twin Ports’ First Openly Gay Bar, The Main Club, Closing After 34 Years
Owner Bob Jansen Says The Times Have Changed
SUPERIOR, Wis. – A true trailblazer within the LGBT community in the Twin Ports is preparing to shut the doors on one historic safe place — The Main Club.
Bob Jansen said he opened The Main — the first openly gay bar in the Northland — in 1983 after winning a lawsuit that said the College of St. Scholastica fired Jansen for being gay.
Once the Main Club was opened, the road ahead was not an easy one considering the times — a time when police officers were wearing gloves during pride events because, according to Jansen, they were scared of contracting AIDS and simply didn’t know any better.
“It was a frightening time for a lot of people,” Jansen said.
“I would go around to local bars and ask them to put condoms in their bar, and the owners would tell me that they don’t have those type of people come in their bars,” said Jansen.
Throughout his 34 years in business, Jansen has used The Main Club for more than serving drinks. He has been a champion for helping others and holding fundraisers for all types of causes.
Alvin Berg, who followed in Jansen’s footsteps to open up his own gay bars, The Flame Nightclub in Duluth and Superior, says Jansen was a pioneer.
“He’s helped many, many thousands of people over his lifetime,” Berg said. “Bob Jansen and The Main Club have been a trailblazer and pioneer to the LGBT community in the Twin Ports.”
As for closing, Jansen says gay–specific establishments are finding it harder and harder to survive because young gay people are not feeling as threatened as they did in the 80s and 90s and early 2000s.
“The younger crowd can go anywhere. So their support for some of the gay communities — institutions — have fallen by the wayside,” said Jansen.
That wayside is so true for Jansen, he says he can’t justify staying open anymore and will shut the doors for good sometime after pride weekend, which is also Labor Day weekend.
Jansen hopes the history and struggles the gay community has overcome will continue to be taught, even without The Main Club.
“If we don’t have part of our history and part of education in regards as to what the gay community is about and what we are in, then there’s no justification to have pride because then it’s just like another party,” said Jansen.
For a link to the history of The Main Club, click here.
For a list of events for pride weekend, click here.