Well, that was fast. The Great Dueling Piano Bar War is over (did you know there was such a thing?). Your winner: The Shout House. Your loser: Howl at the Moon. I guess the little guy won. When Howl at the Moon roared into downtown Minneapolis last year, most onlookers wondered if this market could handle two piano bars (especially within three blocks of each other). Howl at the Moon was the corporate giant, the largest piano bar chain in the country with about 15 locations. In the end, it looks like those deep pockets weren’t deep enough.
Howl at the Moon closed its doors last Wednesday. The brass at its corporate office in Chicago hasn’t returned my phone call. And I’m still trying to get a hold of Eric Fortney, who was Howl’s Minneapolis partner (his company also owns Brother Bar next door).
The closing news was news to Shout House owner Joe Woods.
“I was pretty surprised to be honest with you,” he told me.
Some Howl customers still had table reservations for this past Saturday night. Woods said he tried to fit them into his bar’s already sold-out Saturday. Opened since 2004, the Shout House is still going strong inside Block E.
While Howl's seven-month lifespan in downtown is about a quick as they come, this isn’t the first time the chain has been quick to close a new location. The Howl in Scottsdale closed in six months. When I talked with the company's jet-setting founder Jimmy Bernstein last December, he was supremely confident in the Minneapolis location’s success. Seven months later, the music died.
(Photo by Tom Wallace)