Unless a miracle happens, there’s going to be a Pi-shaped hole in the heart of Minneapolis. Pi Restaurant and Bar, the meeting place for queer women, the GBLT community, and alternative people of all stripes, is the latest casualty of the faltering economy and is set to close its doors on November 15. Pi patrons have responded to the news with an overwhelming campaign of generosity to Pi’s owner, Tara Yule, but the situation is still grim.
For more information about the status of Pi’s closing and the fundraising effort, see this page on Facebook.com.
Pi opened in February 2007 and since then has been a meeting ground for the local community of queer women, but it also has been a welcoming venue for many different types of people. “It felt very safe,” says Emily Zimmer, a local actress who was among Pi’s patrons on Thursday. “I like that it was a place for people to gather in a different way.” Zimmer says that Pi is a place where diverse groups of people could come together, that it opened its doors to everyone in a gender/queer safe environment. Plus, it has a “bad-ass dance floor,” Zimmer says.
Cherry Acker, another patron, who was at Pi last Thursday night, says that she wished that Pi had said something earlier so that the community would have had time to do something. “I’m devastated,” Acker says. She has appreciated all of the different opportunities that Pi has offered: a pool league, drag shows, karaoke, and excellent food. “This is a women’s place,” she says. “We don’t discriminate.”
Another woman, Gerry, was there with her partner. They learned about Pi at Gay Pride, and though they are not frequent patrons, they do stop by Pi when they come to Minneapolis from Forest Lake to see a play or a concert. Gerry likes Pi because it’s a place where “we can be ourselves, and feel comfortable.”
“I’ve created something here that even outstripped my vision of what it was supposed to be,” says Yule. She says that when she created the space, she wanted to open it up to the entire queer community. Its focus was on women, but also welcomed the trans community and GBLT supporters.
Not just a bar, but a meeting place for many community organizations, Pi has raised over $40,000 for charity since its inception with its monthly “dingo” game (legally, they cannot call it Bingo) among other events. Pi has also donated its space to groups, helping them raise over $100,000. “It’s a great place,” says Yule. “There’s a lot of heart here.”
“There’s a lot of heart here.” – Pi Bar owner Tara Yule
Yule obtained Pi’s building using a contract for deed with a balloon payment. By September, she owed $600,000. Because of the credit freeze, she was not able to refinance her loan, and Pi is currently set to lose possession of the building on November 29. Yule plans to close on November 15 in order to allow time to liquidate assets.
Yule sent a letter to her patrons thanking them for their support and letting them know that Pi was closing. The community did not take the news lying down.
Joni Thome, a friend and Patron of Pi bar, sent out a letter encouraging the community to help save the bar, and proposes a solution:
Make the building a community-owned space—sort of like the Green Bay Packers. That is, private donors contribute dollars to bring the amount to be financed down to a manageable level or provide enough funds to purchase the building outright. Current Pi owner Tara Yule would then become the steward for the building. The Pi Bar and Restaurant would continue to operate consistent with its current philosophy and environment and it would continue to be the space for fundraising and other events in our communities. The benefit to our communities and to each donor is not something that can be defined at this time. Management has tossed around ideas of VIP status and public recognition for contributions of $500.00 and more. I know that I will donate because I go to Pi because of what it has become and what it will continue to be in our community. We won’t have a chance like this again perhaps for a long, long time. You can become a proud “owner” of the Pi Bar and Community Center by sending all you
can to: Pi Bar, 2532 25th Ave S., Minneapolis MN 55406.
$100,000 has already been raised, but there is still a long way to go, and not much time. Yule says she will not cash anyone’s check unless there is enough money to save Pi.
Meanwhile, preparations for closing continue. Pi entertainment director Shannon Blowtorch says that she feels in limbo, but that she’s riding the wave. She plans to have the last days at Pi be the best ever, with Maria Isa playing on Friday night and a string of DJs spinning on Saturday.
Also on November 15, Pi will auction off the murals on its walls. The murals, created by Chamindika Wandurugala and Kim Thompson, will be sawzalled and sold in order to help pay off some of the debts. There also might possibly be a silent auction, but Thule says that is still up in the air.
If Pi does close, promises Blowtorch, “we’re going to go out with a bang.”
Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.