Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Times They Are-a-Changin': Uptown Bar Edition

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 CafĂ©. 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.


  1. I tend to prefer more classic architecture, so IMO, the Uptown Bar isn't very attractive anyway. While I expect I won't be much more of a fan of the new building (haven't seen any renderings or anything...), 3 stories is better than 1 for uptown.

  2. I am no longer an uptowner, but I lived there in the late 90's during my college days. So the thought of seeing the Uptown Bar and it's buiding removed is a sad thing to me. I was living in Uptown before the big "Urban Outfitters" and before many of the other shiney new stores have come and changed the vibe of the place. When you build new shops in a place that has a history of being eclectic and artsy you lose something to the change.

  3. I lived in minneapolis all of my life untill 1997, and during the 80's early 90's I went to many shows at the Uptown Bar, then back fro Breakfast on Saturdays or Sundays--it was a major cultural fixture and will be sadly missed.

    I was wondering if anyone could help with another missing piece of Uptown History--there was a restaurant on the corner of Lake and Hennipen, accross from what is now Calhoun Sqyuare--it was righ on the corner,a nd I cant remember what it was called. i know I ate there a few times,a nd I remember it being a Chinese Restaurant, but I may be wrong--can anyone help with the name,and if possible know where thre would be a a pictre of it? If am an artist, and I am starting a series of memory and lost places paiintings, and any help woudl be appreciated--thanks! Dwayne Erickson-guinol@hotmail.com

  4. LUSURFER performs a funeral in honor the Uptowner's demise. A New Orlean's style march officiated by a recognized Minister working on behalf of LUSURFER to put the last nail in the coffin. Festivities begin around 9 PM that night. So, come raise a glass, join the march, and dance the two-step to the end of Uptown as we know it.

  5. The march is the night of October 31st. See you there.