In Bars & Clubs

Kelsey Kaufmann has creative plans for the iconic Cactus Club. (PHOTO: Facebook)

Kaufmann procures Cactus Club, shares plans

After almost 25 years under the same ownership, the Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave., has a new proprietor. Earlier this month, Eric Uecke sold the bar and music venue to longtime employee and manager, Kelsey Kauffman.

Kaufmann, who worked at Cactus Club since 2011, says owning the space is one of her dreams coming to fruition.

"Yes, it's a dream come true, but I have lots of dreams that are in the works," says Kaufmann, who has organized community events and shows since she was a teenager. "I believe deeply in providing accessible platforms for creative expression, empowerment and socializing. Much of the staff of Cactus has worked here for many years. It's exciting for it to be explicitly artist-run, artist-centered and collaboratively organized."

The Cactus Club will largely stay the same, but is now licensed as a Center for Performing Arts in addition to being a tavern and live music hall. This means the space can offer all-ages events and matinee shows for people 18 and older, provided they comply with curfew. Otherwise, the space remains accessible only to patrons who are at least 21.

Kaufmann also plans to make the Cactus Club ADA compliant.

"My top priority is getting Cactus to be wheelchair accessible. It's been something of concern for a long time, but I now have the agency to pursue making it happen," says Kaufmann.

The venue will continue to host bands from Milwaukee and way beyond, as well as focus on multigenre music shows that combine avant jazz, hip-hop, Americana, reggaeton and more.

"Additionally, we'll be throwing more dance parties, club nights, film screenings, monthly poetry happy hours, maker markets, community meetings and workshops," says Kaufmann.

Partnering with local organizations for fundraisers and outreach events are also in the works. Kaufmann's already working with the Milwaukee Parks Department on a new program that links the club with nearby Cupertino Park to undergo a monthly clean-up.

Cactus' drink menu will expand to offer more NA options including two permanent lines of kombucha, nitro coffee, various teas and sparkling beverages. Food trucks will also be on site regularly, including new Mexican food truck, Frida's Cocina.

"I want us to be a safe space of creative refuge for many communities that can take many forms," says Kaufmann. "Come in to quietly read, play records, organize events, see or play shows, go on a date, tease out an idea, dance on the bar."


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