Historic State Theater in Milwaukee’s SOHI District could reopen as all-ages club

Building last operated as a strip club in the 1990s

Rendering of The New State.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:11 pm

The historic State Theater in Milwaukee’s SOHI District could be reopened for the first time in nearly two decades as an all-ages music club.

The project, called The New State, would also be a combination of non- and for-profit businesses, sharing and collaborating in the space at 2612 W. State St.

The venue will include sober music performances, a professional sound engineering studio, a consignment store for local artists, and classroom and performance space focusing on the development of young musicians and artists.

West Side Arts Un, Limited, a newly-formed non-profit organization that includes developers, architects and business owners residing in the Near West Side, have launched a public financing campaign to raise $250,000 for the project.

That money will be used to stabilize the building and winterize it, said Allyson Nemec of Quorum Architects. Another $2.5 million will then have to be raised to complete the renovations.

The group hopes to open the doors of The New State in 2020.

The building is currently owned by the Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority.

Board members include Nemec, John Hennessy of Hennessy Group, Charles Forsberg of Mammyth Audio and Andrew Parker of Manderley Bed & Breakfast.

The building was known as the State Theater from 1915 to 1955 and eventually became a well-known music club. The venue was at times also called The Palms and Electric Ballroom.

Well-known musicians including U2, Elvis Costello, The Police, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers all played at the club.

It was later renamed Hoops and became a strip club, that eventually closed in the early 1990s. The building stood empty and neglected since.

In February 2017, a two-alarm fire destroyed much of the inside.

Nemec, who also lives in the neighborhood, put together a group to come up with potential renovation and reuse ideas for the property.

In studying the project’s feasibility, creating space that would focus on music and provide a benefit to the community became the answer.

“We read a little bit about the demolition that was being contemplated by the city because no use had come forward, and wanted to do something,” Nemec said, adding that the space will also house Milwaukee businesses FREESPACE and Mammyth Audio.  “We talked about it for a long time and decided that combining forces we could all come up with something that supported an all-ages venue at this location.”


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