After the 400 Bar went completely dark a month ago, some light has finally been shed on the future of the Minneapolis West Bank live music mainstay. The club's historic two-story building has been sold and will be converted into a community and youth outreach center for Somali residents, confirmed Joe O'Brien, a new business partner with the family that has operated the bar since the mid-'90s. Before anyone goes and writes an epitaph for the 400 Bar, though, O'Brien said the club will likely live on in a new location.
A message newly posted on the club's website -- which has been devoid of show listings or any updates since November -- was the first confirmation that the building at 400 Cedar Avenue S. would be changing hands. It reads:
"After 17 years of presenting shows, we've closed the old building on the West Bank. Thanks to all the great music fans and artists who've worked so hard to make the 400 what it is. An online auction featuring some of the club's memorabilia starts this weekend at www.400bar.com. See you in 2013."
The bar's operators for those 17 years, Tom and Bill Sullivan, are staying mum on the changes and letting O'Brien do the talking. And he's not saying much. He did say that the building has been bought by Abdighani M. Ali, who is an assistant director of the south Minneapolis charter school Banaadir Academy and a Somali and Muslim community leader. Ali, however, could not be reached for confirmation.
The 400 Bar is just a few doors down from Dar Al-Hijrah, a mosque and Islamic center, and the club neighbors many other Somali businesses that have popped up in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood over the past decade.
Whatever becomes of the property, it will no longer be the home of one of Minneapolis' best-known rock clubs -- news that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The 400 Bar's bookings have tapered off in the past couple years, and there were no shows at all on the calendar for 2013. Some of the last tweets from the club's Twitter account were farewell-like links to YouTube videos of Jack Johnson and Mumford & Sons performing at the bar, two of the many big-name acts who played there when they were little-known. Others include the Arcade Fire, White Stripes, Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power and Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst.
The latter three acts each performed in the Twin Cities over the past four months still under the 400 Bar umbrella, with shows at Mill City Nights and the Fitzgerald Theater advertised as "400 Bar Presents" concerts.
A tour manager by trade, 400 Bar co-proprietor Bill Sullivan has worked for both Oberst and Cat Power and came to the 400 Bar after what must have felt like nine lifetimes on the road with both the Replacements and Soul Asylum. He hosted many of his old cronies there with his brother for seemingly the most random occasions, from Paul Westerberg's private gig when his wife Laurie Lindeen graduated from grad school to a girlfriend's birthday party celebration by Golden Smog to a last-minute show this past summer by some of the R.E.M. crew that were out with the Baseball Project, when BP's Soundtown gig was canceled.
It looks as if the final show at the 400 Bar -- or, let's say, the original 400 Bar -- was a fitting one: a Nov. 26 gig by Spider John Koerner and Tony Glover, the blues/folk legends who hark back to the venue's earlier incarnation in the West Bank music hub of the 1960s and '70s.