Sometimes a location can perfectly embody a moment in time, and no place better represented downtown Jacksonville in the 1990s than the Milk Bar.
The club, named for the lounge in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, first opened its doors in 1990. It occupied the basement of what was once the Furchgott’s Department Store building at the corner of Adams and Hogan. And just as the streets above ground, surrounded by a mounting number of vacant storefronts, were drab and often scary at the time, Milk Bar’s hauntingly dim basement space offered a parallel vision of a post-retail apocalypse – complete with exposed piping and department-store mannequins used as decoration.
Its grungy aesthetic made it a perfect hot-spot for the city’s growing underground music scene, at a time when alt-rock and punk music were reaching their peaks.
Just about anyone who came of age in Jax in the ‘90s has at least one Milk Bar story, with the venue routinely drawing hundreds for its shows. Part of the appeal was surely the rush of staying out in downtown Jax till 4:00 AM, a danger in and of itself during that era. But the biggest draw for the club was the amazing lineup of talent it routinely brought in.
The Milk Bar brought some of the country’s greatest alternative music acts to downtown Jacksonville. Throughout the decade, it hosted the likes of Blink-182, Korn, Bloodhound Gang, Fugazi, 311, and more. Its bookings were often diverse and crossed multiple genres, ranging from Ben Folds to De La Soul to Ice-T.
Watch a then-unknown Incubus play the venue below:
The venue is perhaps most well-remembered, especially locally, as the launching pad for Limp Bizkit. The rap-rock group grew to prominence through Jacksonville’s underground music scene, playing several sold-out shows there and forming connections that led to their national breakthrough.
But, as with any place so strongly connected to an era, the Milk Bar came with an expiration date. At the end of the decade, the club merged into another venue, Paradome, on Forsyth Street in LaVilla. Before long, the newly-combined club started transitioning away from the punk rock scene, focusing instead on hip-hop and dropping the Milk Bar branding altogether.
Meanwhile, De Real Ting Café took over the basement space formerly held by the venue and established a club of their own. They still occupy the space and even hosted a Milk Bar reunion event in 2010.
Today, not much is left from the Milk Bar except for memories. And while downtown Jax looks poised for a renaissance in the near future, it’ll probably never see anything like the Milk Bar again.