Uptown is buzzing with conversation about the possible closing, or at least relocation, of the iconic Uptown Bar & Cafe. If all goes forward as planned, the current building will be demolished and a new, three-story building erected in its place. There are a lot of issues here, and I still have to sort out some of my thoughts. In the meantime, here’s my first stab at working through some of it:
The owner is old, and is the one who wants to sell. This is NOT an issue of a beloved local institution being forced out due to market forces. This is an essential point, and those demanding that the city step in to intervene need to keep this in mind.
There’s a possibility that the Uptown Bar would relocate elsewhere in the neighborhood. Not the same thing, I know, but better than nothing.
Is the Uptown Bar “historic”? I have mixed opinions on this point. I’m a strong believer in historic preservation, probably more so than many people in Uptown. I also like the Uptown Bar’s building, I like its sign, and I like its significance to not-so-distant Uptown history. At the same time, businesses come and go. That’s life, like it or not. Take a look at the Rainbow Café. Time moves forward. Much as I’d like to see the Uptown Bar stay where it is, I think it’s reasonable to accept that this is an inevitable change of guard in the neighborhood. The building has historic value, but I don’t think it’s significant enough to justify forced preservation. I would, however, like to second the suggestion I’ve heard floating around that any new design incorporate the Uptown’s sign, or otherwise preserve some element of the building and its history. I also hope that if and when things move forward that the Uptown Bar get in contact with the Hennepin History Museum, the Minnesota Historic Society, or, for ephemera, the Minneapolis Collection at the Hennepin County Library to see if they’d be interested in any materials for their collections.
If the Uptown Bar closes, does that really mean Uptown has “lost its soul”? This is another opinion frequently expressed by regular Uptown Bar patrons. I don’t agree. While I welcome some of the neighborhood’s changes and dislike others, I think Uptown was – and continues to be – more than just what is represented by the Uptown Bar. Uptown is more than a bar (or breakfast) scene. The Uptown Bar may be far less annoying than Cowboy Slim’s or Chino Latino, but it’s still just one aspect of the neighborhood. The Uptown Bar is an important local institution, but it’s not the only thing of value in Uptown. For those looking for local, independent, smaller, unique businesses, there are still plenty of those around, too. And for everyone who claims that Uptown has become just another suburb, well, I’ve yet to come across a Twin Cities suburb that offers the level of density, amenities, and overall urban lifestyle offered by Uptown.
Yes, I’ll be sad to see the Uptown Bar leave. No, I don’t want to see another chain in Uptown. I will be sad to see the Uptown Bar’s building gone, no matter how wonderful (or not wonderful) the replacement building will be. I’ll be interested to see what detailed arguments proponents of the historic preservation movement put forward. I’m sympathetic to their concerns, and if the arguments are good enough could still change my personal stance. Still, at this point in time I am resigned to saying a fond farewell to a longtime neighborhood landmark, and raise my Uptown Bar glass in salute to a local institution.