Uptown Bar is one step closer to closure

Talk of relocating the bar is rising, but hope of saving its current site dimmed at Monday's Minneapolis Planning Commission meeting.

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The Uptown Bar

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Hopes of saving the Uptown Bar & Cafe at its present location dimmed Monday as the Minneapolis Planning Commission unanimously approved a development plan to level the long-beloved rock club and brunch spot in favor of a new, three-story retail space.

The developer behind the project, Jeffrey Herman, said a plan is in place to relocate the bar and keep its legacy as a music venue alive.

"The general sentiment is we're all sad to see it go," said Rebecca Farrar, the city clerk who brought the development plans before the commission. However, Farrar said that unless the city's Heritage Preservation Committee intervenes, there is nothing the commission could do other than make sure the structural changes to the property are up to code.

Herman, whose company, Urban Anthology, helped bring Victoria's Secret and American Apparel stores to Uptown, said he is among those who would hate to see the neighborhood lose such a landmark. That decision is up to bar owner Frank Toonen, 88, who approached Herman about the retail plan, the developer said.

Toonen wants to sell the property to raise money that he plans to leave to his wife and to the widow of his son, Kenneth Toonen, who ran the bar for several decades before he passed away last summer, said Herman.

"If they were younger and more able to handle running the business, they would, but as it stands this is strictly an estate-divestment situation," Herman said.

The developer claimed to be assisting the relocation plans, and he even said one site in particular is being eyed that is "very close" to the present location, at 3018 Hennepin Av. S. However, he would not go into the specifics, including who would put up the money and run the venue. Herman hopes to begin construction on the new, unnamed store by winter.

The relocation talk still sounded iffy to staffers at the bar, who seemed shellshocked after Monday's commission meeting.

"It's all so far up in the air, we're not sure what to think," said daytime manager Scott Hurlbut.

Brian McDonough, who books bands at the Uptown, said, "If the bar isn't saved, there are probably a lot of people who would never have any reason to go to [the Uptown area] anymore."

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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