Looking for something different to do on a Friday evening after work? A way to meet new LGBT friends away from the bars and the fundraisers?
The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center has the solution. The second Friday of each month, the group hosts an after-work mixer in a different Milwaukee-area restaurant or bar. Appropriately titled TGIF, the roaming event offers free hors d’oeuvres donated by the host venue.
Frequent attendees say TGIF also offers a laid-back and upbeat experience.
Realtor Wendy Young started the event “two or three years ago” as a way of getting supporters of the center out into the larger community together to socialize, she said.
“We have to start mainstreaming,” Young said at the Feb. 8 event, which began at 5:30 p.m. at the Mexican restaurant Riviera Maya, 2258 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View.
When the event started, TGIF was mostly a women’s affair, Young said. Quest Mortgage served as the event’s sponsor, picking up the food tab for more than a year.
But when Young handed off the event to John Cassanos – she now organizes a monthly dining-out social event for the center – the men started showing up, she said. Cassanos, who moved to Milwaukee about a year ago when his husband took a job at Kohl’s, has “taken this about five levels higher,” Young enthused.
TGIF is a win-win event for both the LGBT community and the host, Cassanos said.
“It’s good exposure for the restaurant, and it gives the restaurant an early dinner boost,” he said. At the same time, it gives LGBT folks and allies a break from all the serious issues and the bars, he added.
“It’s not about causes or raising money,” he said. “It’s just a social event.”
About 40 people braved slushy weather to attend the February TGIF at Riviera Maya. Depending on the weather and the venue, as many as 70 people have attended – and the number continues to grow, said center board co-president Paul Williams.
“I’ve made more friends with more women through this event than anything gay I’ve attended,” Williams said.