“People often ask me, ‘Michael, if you love nature so much, why is it that you live in the city where the only green grass and crushed rock are being smoked through a pipe?’ Well, I look at them and tell them because people live in the city and people are the best part of nature.” – lyrics by Michael Franti of Spearhead
Sunday, November 1 marked the last business day for the Uptown Bar. Rich Gill, a resident of the Wedge neighborhood, warmed up the standing room only crowd with a DJ set that included The Replacements, Soul Asylum and other famous bands that have played at the Uptown Bar through the years. He filled out the his set with all local music purchased from all local venues like Treehouse Records, Fifth Element and Extreme Noise Records. In addition to spinning vinyl for over eight years at the bar, he also works down the block at the Uptown Theatre. You might say he knows a little bit about the neighborhood.
Responding to a question about his thoughts on the bar closing he epitomized the emotions of a cross section of demographics present that night.
“All my best friends hang out here. It sucks. I’ve hung out here three to seven times a week in the last seven years”
After that night the sentiments of those melancholy fans bled out onto the outside of the building. Farewell graffiti with a variety of messages from anger to sadness and everything in between covered the front of the building until it was razed later in the month.
Many of the employees and managers are still waiting to see if they can make something like the Uptown Bar work somewhere else. But transferring the liquor license is a nonstarter. Years ago the Minneapolis City Council passed a law to keep an establishment’s license connected to a name and address to keep it from becoming a hot commodity that could be bought and sold. Not only does it keep the price from skyrocketing but that practice also dissuades organized crime from getting involved.
So the ex-managers continue to look for money and a space to relocate which brings many to ask ‘Is it that easy to transfer the soul of an Uptown institution?’
But maybe it’s just a matter of time before new places develop or maybe they’re already here. After all it’s the people of Uptown that make this place special. Uptown Bar’s architecture was kitschy but it was the people that embraced what it represented that made the difference in the end. And many of Uptown’s music patron’s are still active at many music scenes. That list includes many active players: The Beat Coffeehouse, Bryant Lake Bowl, Butter Cafe, Cafe Barbette, Dunn Bros., Famous Dave’s, Favor Cafe, Suburban World Theatre, Sauce Spirits & Soundbar, many transient street musicians and great local block parties like the Pizza Luce Block Party, Bryant Lake Bowl Pride Block Party and Cafe Barbette’s Bastille Day.
Music has a life of it’s own and doesn’t always follow a linear path. It can be unintentional and accidental or straightforward and inspiring but it is always universal and as long as the people of Uptown are still listening, the beat will go on.
Bruce Cochran is Art Director in charge of production for the Uptown Neighborhood News, lives in CARAG and enjoys listening to the cosmic microwave background radiation.