“Look this way!” “Over here.” “Here.”
The four bartenders at Nye’s Polonaise Room suddenly became celebrities on Sunday. Dozens of bargoers wanted souvenir cellphone photos on the last night at Nye’s, a lovably lost-in-time restaurant and bar in northeast Minneapolis that closed Sunday night after 66 years.
“Isn’t this silly?” Corky Hisle, a Nye’s bartender for 25½ years, said after the photo opp of the hugging quartet of mixologists.
Nearly everyone wanted a memento on the last night. By dinner time, the $55 bowling shirts were available only in XXXL and the $25 T-shirts, emblazoned with “Have a Nye’s Night” on the back, were available only in size small. The jumbo lowball cocktail glasses — four for $40 — were sold out.
Nye’s was packed — from a special tent outside where St. Dominic’s Trio was playing, to the Chopin Room selling pierogi, to the piano bar and the world’s smallest dance hall, where a polka band has held forth for decades.
This wasn’t like the revered old Guthrie Theater being torn down or the closing of the posh 510 Groveland Restaurant. This was more like Met Stadium, a beloved but antiquated populist institution, being razed to make room for the Mall of America.
Hisle had been down this road before. He once owned his own bar, Cork’s, in downtown Minneapolis that shut down to make way for a development.
“It’s like getting a divorce and you didn’t have control over it,” he said.
The Jacobs brothers, who have owned Nye’s since 1999, are working with a developer to build a six-story apartment and retail complex where Nye’s stands.
“I’m ready for it to go,” said John Eichten, 48, of Minneapolis, sporting his newly purchased Nye’s bowling shirt. “I understand progress needs to be made. They want more housing. Nye’s had a great run. It was a fun place.”
Minnesota mandolin master Peter Ostroushko, who grew up blocks from Nye’s, strolled by for one last time with his wife, Marge. He’d visited this place since he was a kid. It was the place he went for his one last drink, a zesty martini, when he was diagnosed as an alcoholic and quit drinking in 1982.
“I had to get the smell back in my nostrils and get the visuals back,” he said, sounding nostalgic.
Outside, St. Dominic’s Trio understood the mixed feelings of the occasion: Terry Walsh and band blasted the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered,” then went into Van Morrison’s ethereal “Into the Mystic.”
Inside, at the piano bar, Tom Hunter was playing for the first time at Nye’s because, on the final day, the music went from 2 p.m. to close and more musicians were required. To toast Nye’s, he modified an old English drinking song he learned in college. Something about ashes to ashes, if the martinis don’t kill you, the women will.
Then, as he began “Piano Man” by request — probably the ninth time it would be heard there on Sunday — a woman walked by in a special-for-the-occasion St. Dominic’s Trio T-shirt that summed up the final soiree: “It was Nye’s.”