“Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities,” a new book by Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019), includes the history of four Northeast bars. The authors have the outsider’s view. The Northeaster decided to add our own digging.
According to Lindeke and Sturdevant, the first saloon was established in Northeast in 1850, when the town was named St. Anthony. A French Canadian, Alexis Cloutier, opened a bowling saloon at the intersection of Marshall and Dana Street (Fifth Avenue NE), not too far from the steamboat landing below St. Anthony Falls. His daughter, Harriet, was purported to be the first white child born in St. Anthony.
Cloutier operated during a time when temperance campaigns were sweeping the U.S. In 1851, the Minnesota Territorial Legislature voted to make Minnesota a dry territory. Cloutier, who went on to serve as a county commissioner, managed to secure a license to serve alcohol for “one more year.” In mid-1852, Sheriff George Brott confiscated three barrels of alcohol and arrested Cloutier, who was fined. Justice H.Z. Hayner overturned Cloutier’s conviction and ordered Brott to return the booze. Unfortunately for the sheriff, someone had sneaked into the storehouse, cut a hole in the floor and siphoned off the liquor. He had to pay Cloutier for the missing product.
Cloutier opened another saloon near St. Peters and St. Martins Streets (Ninth and Tenth Avenues NE), and stayed in the saloon business until at least 1860.
Bars and more bars
By 1912, there were 159 saloons in Minneapolis. Many of them were “tied houses” that served only one brewery’s beer. Minneapolis Brewing (Grain Belt) controlled 66 of them. According to the July 20, 1912 Minneapolis Morning Tribune, there were 34 tied houses in Northeast. Breweries represented included Schlitz, Minneapolis Brewing, Purity Brewing, Gluek Brewing and Gund.
The Sample Room at 2124 Marshall Street NE was a tied house. It was adjacent to the grounds of the Gluek mansion, torn down in in the 1970s. Built in 1893 by Matt Theis, it’s gone by several names, including Pulaski’s, Cos and Steve’s and the Polish Palace. It may have been a speakeasy during Prohibition; there’s evidence of a bricked-up doorway in the basement, according to a Mississippi Corridor Neighborhood Coalition study done in 2000.
Many bars made way for newer buildings. One was the Nogly Bar at 425 Marshall Street NE. Built in 1857, it may have started out as a store. Josephine and Paul Nogly operated a bar there until Prohibition forced them to convert the operation to a restaurant. Josephine died in 1936. Replaced by a private residence, the building’s architecture was documented by the U.S. Department of the Interior before it was torn down.
Liquor patrol limits
“In 1884,” Tim Fuehrer wrote in the June 19, 1991 Northeaster, “the [city] council acted to curtail ‘random saloon locations’ with an ordinance that established patrol limits. The ordinance remained basically intact until it was abolished in 1974.” The ordinance established corridors where bars could be located. It’s the reason there are no bars east of Central Avenue. The Audubon neighborhood remained dry until just a few years ago, when Hazel’s Restaurant and Parkway Pizza were granted wine and beer licenses.
One evidence of the limit showed up in the name of a watering hole on the corner of Lowry and 4th Street NE. Now operating as the Northeast Palace, the First Chance/Last Chance Bar must have seemed like a beacon of freedom. If you were traveling west on Lowry, it was your first chance to get an alcoholic beverage in Northeast. If you were traveling east, it was your last chance for a drink until you reached St. Anthony Village.
Beer and cheap (free) food
Bars have served as a Northeast working man’s hangout since lumberyard workers sought to wash down the dust from the sawmills on the river bank. Window signs often advertised, “Bar lunch.” Back then, a pickled egg might accompany a quaff. When Al Nye started his eponymous bar on East Hennepin in 1950, he kept a hot plate in back of the bar where sauerkraut and Polish sausages were at the ready for hungry customers. When Joe Mancino ran the Town Pump Bar, now the home of the NE Yacht Club, 801 Marshall Street, he had a crockpot of spaghetti sauce simmering all day long. Jimmy Haracz, owner of Jimmy’s Bar and Lounge, 1828 4th Street NE, served White Castle sliders on Sundays, on the house.
Bars with a notorious past
The Town Pump named, appropriately, for the water pump that once stood at the corner of Marshall and Plymouth, when some houses in Northeast lacked indoor plumbing. It was a place to get safe drinking water, instead of drawing polluted water from the river. It’s thought that, during Prohibition, illicit booze was smuggled up from the river bank to the bar through a tunnel in the basement.
The Town Pump gained notoriety in the mid-1950s when owner Theodore Wisniewski was charged by federal prosecutors with pouring cheap whiskey into bottles from more expensive brands. A few years later, bartender Anthony Mancino was charged with falsely reporting a robbery to the police, and for having firearms in the bar.
Tony Jaros’ River Garden, the “Home of the Greenie” was once the home of a prostitution ring.
Back in 1953, the building on the corner of Lowry and Marshall was named John’s Bar and Funhouse. A neon-clad, short-skirted figure of a woman stuck out from the upper corner of the building, inviting drinkers to come on in. Brothers John and Frank Gawron were the proprietors.
Early that year, John Gawron was arrested on “white slavery” charges, part of one of the largest prostitution rings in the U.S. that recruited young women from the University of Minnesota and transported them across state lines to Sioux Falls and Chicago. Gawron admitted to running the Minneapolis hub of the organization; he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and John’s Bar lost its license.
Current owner Dan Jaros said recently, “There used to be prostitutes upstairs. Going down to the funhouse in the basement, they had air going up so you could see under the girls’ dresses.” When Jaros’ father, NBA basketball star and Edison grad Tony Jaros, purchased the bar in 1960 with Cletus Scherer, the upstairs was used as a dancehall. The Jaros family made it into an apartment. He said the Greenie was invented by his brother, Tom.
Mayslacks, 1428 4th Street NE, was notorious for another reason: the owner.
Stan Mayslack was a former pro wrestler (6’ 2”, 218 lbs., 568 matches) when he bought Johnson’s Bar in 1955. The man who wrestled The Crusher, Verne Gagne and Hard Boiled Haggerty soon became famous for his garlicky roast beef sandwiches – the only item on the menu – piled high on a flimsy paper plate. Business men and women from across the city lunched at Mayslack’s, where the genial proprietor would bawl out, “Two hands!” to the uninitiated. Those who didn’t support their plate properly were promptly doused with beef juice.
Polka music was the only music on the jukebox. In the early 1970s, the Edison High School Marching Band turned up at Mayslacks after an Aquatennial parade. To Mayslack’s delight, they played the school song, followed by a polka. He treated every kid in the band to a soft drink.
Mayslack died in 1995. Though the name on the bar is the same, and the beef sandwiches are still on the menu, it’s not like the days when Stan Maslajek of Northeast Minneapolis advertised, “Nobody beats Mayslack’s meat!”
Sources: Lindeke, Bill and Sturdevant, Andy, “Closing Time,” Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019; Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 20, 1912; MNOpedia.com, November 11, 2019; Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Nov. 10, 2018; Wrestlingdata.com; Mayslacksbar.com
By-gone bars that filled NE
What makes a good Northeast bar? It’s longevity, with a patina of honest, well-earned scruff. It’s where local residents hang out. It may or may not have live music. It has character.
Fifty years ago, Northeast had many more bars than it has today. Streets have been re-
arranged, parks created, buildings razed and new ones built. Following is a list of the departed, their locations and what stands where they once stood.
Biernat’s Jay-Bee, 965 Central Avenue. Now the site of the Vegas Lounge.
Cy-Day, a liquor store and bar at 5th and Adams Street NE. Part of Webster Elementary School?
Fitz Bar, 207 E. Hennepin, next to Kramarczuk’s. Now home of Dandy Horse Bicycle Repair Shop.
Five Fifteen Bar, 515 3rd Avenue NE. Now part of St. Anthony Park.
Friendly Bar, 311 Main Street NE. The Ukrainian Event Center is there now.
Huddle Bar, 101-103 E. Hennepin. It’s under RiverPlace somewhere.
Ideal Bar, 641 Marshall Street NE. A private home stands there now.
Jacob’s 101, Main and Broadway. Crescent Trace apartments.
King of Clubs, 957 Central Avenue. Who can forget its star turn in the movie, “Fargo?”
Replaced by Clare Apartments in 2004.
Larry’s Northeast, 456 Adams. Part of Webster Elementary School?
M&M Bar, 360 Monroe. The approximate location of the Moose Bar & Grill.
Rose’s Bar, 327 Main Street NE. Subsumed by the Ukrainian Event Center.
Stop Inn, 941 Central Avenue. Now part of Clare Housing’s property.
Tony’s, 1001 Central. A vacant lot.
Vic’s, 619 3rd Avenue NE. In the vicinity of the 3rd Avenue townhouses.
Below: Alexis Cloutier’s former home at 915 2nd Street NE. The land is now occupied by apartment buildings. (Minnesota Historical Society) Nogly’s Bar. If it existed today, it would probably be on the National Register of Historic Places. (Minnesota Historical Society) Cy-Day Liquor Store and Bar, 5th and Adams streets NE (Hennepin County Library, Historical Research Inc. Collection) and John’s Bar on Marshall and Lowry, 1953 (Minnesota Historical Society)