Jeff Weinshrott is looking for a few good bartenders to mix libations and make customers at Filibusters, Sheboygan’s newest nightspot, feel at home. Candidates must have a good sense of humor and demonstrate capable mixology skills.
“I’m always looking for competent bartenders,” says Weinshrott, who with business partner Dan Senglaub, owns the enterprise housed in what was once a brothel located on Sheboygan’s waterfront. “Anyone interested should feel free to contact me at the bar.”
Filibusters isn’t the only gay bar in Sheboygan, an industrial city of about 50,000 people located 50 miles north of Milwaukee on the Lake Michigan shoreline. But with an entryway flanked by both American and rainbow flags, Filibusters makes a bold statement of its intentions in a way Weinshrott hopes will be welcoming to the entire community.
“Our motto at the bar is, ‘We are straight-friendly,’” Weinshrott says. “We should all be able to coexist and we will strive to make a positive impression on today’s society so we can all just get along.”
Both partners have backgrounds in the hospitality industry, although each has taken the long way around before arriving at their current roles.
Weinshrott, a Fond du Lac native who has lived in Sheboygan for 24 years, comes from a bar-owning family. But he also is a certified occupational therapist assistant who works on an as-needed basis and alternates those duties with his role in managing Filibusters. Weinshrott and his domestic partner Jim Junge live near the bar.
Senglaub studied hospitality and tourism at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, where Weinshrott also studied. But he was as an over-the-road truck driver and oil field worker and spent 15 years in Salt Lake City before returning to his native Sheboygan last year after his longtime domestic partner died of brain cancer.
Weinshrott manages the business when Senglaub is on the road, and the pair is currently seeking a third business partner.
Filibusters is housed in a vintage 1860 building across the Sheboygan River from the mammoth Blue Harbor Resort and Spa, one of several hotels within walking distance. Despite its colorful history and quaint exterior, much of the original space was gutted, enabling the partners to redesign it from the ground up.
With its unique copper turret, the building is a Sheboygan landmark that retains so much charm that the owners are turning the second floor into a bed and breakfast. They plan to open the space to guests as early as next spring. That’s when the advantage of Filibusters’ location will really come into play, Weinshrott adds.
“I’d have to say the views are breathtaking from the upstairs and the balconies,” Weinshrott says. “We also have a spectacular view of Sheboygan’s riverfront and harbor directly from the bar.”
A comfortable lounge that transforms into La Cage aux Folles after dark, Filibusters has all the basic bar amenities, including a well-fed happy hour crowd and a full selection of cocktails, wines and craft beers. A state-of-the-art dance floor and sound system, a karaoke machine, DJs, an “incredible” light show and progressive slot machines round out the entertainment options.
The name Filibusters, which originated as a suggestion on Facebook, marks the pair’s interest in politics. Weinshrott says they would one day like to host local political debates in the bar room. The owners’ contrary political orientations should make the debate lively.
“I am the yin to Dan’s yang,” says Weinshrott, who describes himself as a left-wing liberal Democrat. “Dan says he is independent, but sat in at a Log Cabin Republican meeting here at the bar so it’s hard to say about him. But together we make it work.”
Filibusters also contributes to an environment that its owners and other business people would like to think makes Sheboygan a tourism destination growing in popularity. Anchored by the Blue Harbor Resort, the south harbor district has an increasing number of specialty shops, gourmet restaurants and night spots, both gay and straight.
Sheboygan’s other gay bar is The Blue Lite, located several block away. Weinshrott believes there is ample opportunity to contribute to the growing revitalization of the city’s downtown as well as strengthen the role played by the LGBT community in that revitalization.
“I hope that Sheboygan will become the Saugatuck of Wisconsin,” Weinshrott says. “Sheboygan has always had a strong gay community, and I would encourage other gay businesses to consider moving (here). It’s a very old town with a lot of charm.”
Filibusters is at 434 Pennsylvania Ave., Sheboygan. For details, call 920-226-0408.