While O’Gara’s in St. Paul is hosting a big farewell blowout with its best-known music headliners this weekend before facing the wrecking ball, another beloved bar over in downtown Minneapolis is going out relatively quietly. If you can call a night with the Sex Rays and Citric Dummies “quiet.”
Grumpy’s Downtown — a haven for healing-powered bloody marys, cheese-drenched tater tots, non-cheesy karaoke nights and occasional punk-rock shows for 19 years — has decreed Saturday its final night of business. The building that houses the dive-y but welcoming Washington Avenue staple will soon be razed to make room for an eight-story, 150-unit apartment complex, pretty much the same story as O’Gara’s (and Nye’s before it).
Grumpy’s co-owner Tom Hazelmyer, the artist, musician and founder of the legendary record label Amphetamine Reptile, will still get to house his Ox-Op Gallery in the new building once the apartments go up, but the bar won’t live on. The new complex is even set to be called the Ox-Op Residences. It will be built around the neighboring Day Block Brewing Co.
Even though he’s a widely appreciated scenemaker who could have called up an impressive cavalry of bands to come bid the place farewell (Buzz Osborne of the Melvins had a lot to say about him last year), Hazelmyer opted to not hype and milk the final weekend for all its worth. Instead, he’s honoring the monthlong residency gig by the Sex Rays, which was confirmed for Saturday night before the closing date was known.
Asked about making any special plans, Hazelmyer only said, “It’s not really a victory dance, is it?”
A posting initiated by Hazelmyer on the Grumpy’s Facebook page a few weeks ago better explained the emotions behind the closure. For starters, it said there are no hard feelings with the developers of the property, who apparently have full blessing to use the Ox-Op name: “They’ve been great to work with and beyond respectful of what this transition means to us,” the post read.
But there were some candid words shared on the challenges of running a great old bar in the newly redeveloping downtown Minneapolis, where the lowly old Metrodome was about the fanciest thing in the neighborhood when Grumpy’s opened there in 1999:
“The way tastes are changing downtown we would have maybe made it a couple more years by the skin of our teeth. You all know the demographic shift around these parts is massive, and our declining sales bear that out.
“There’s been a thousand paper cuts like a few hundred food trucks roaming downtown daily, property taxes being ten times what they were when we opened, a building in need of overwhelming repair, etc. etc. etc., and it is what it is. We’re throwing in the towel and yes it hurts. Any of you inclined to pile on, just don’t. …It’s been a great run, and to all of you who supported us, we can’t thank you enough. We are humbled.”
The post went on to urge support for the equally loved Grumpy’s in northeast Minneapolis, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, as well as the offshoot Grumpy’s in Roseville. And then in true fashion, the message ended with an expletive-spiked kiss-off to “the pedal pubs, and those a--holes from the suburbs that left the occasional one-star pissy review on a max-capacity game day crowded bar.”
Damn, the place will be missed.