The for-sale ad in Sunday's paper did not name any names but nevertheless pretty well hit the nail on the head with these words: "Must see to appreciate."
That's what Twin Cities music lovers and bar hoppers have been saying for decades about Lee's Liquor Lounge, the 1950s-era watering hole at 101 Glenwood Av. N. -- a formerly forgotten corner of downtown Minneapolis that now sits in the shadow of Target Field.
Longtime owner Louie Sirian quietly took out the ad, but admitted Thursday he isn't sold on the idea of selling Lee's: "If someone made me an offer that I felt was worth it, I would take it, but I suspect I'll probably still be here this time next year."
Sirian is embroiled in a dispute with the Minneapolis Fire Department over apartments above his bar that were deemed not up to code last week. Between that and another lengthy conflict with the city over rights to a parking lot across the street, he said, "I am getting a little tired of all the trouble."
Ten male residents who lived above the bar (some of whom also worked there) were "kicked out with only a day's notice in the dead of winter," according to Sirian. Fire officials were not available for comment. The inspections were reportedly part of the fallout following a fire above McMahon's Irish Pub in south Minneapolis that killed six residents in 2010.
However, Sirian said the real reason he's interested in selling is the obvious one: At 75, he said he is ready to retire. He bought Lee’s (which dates back to 1957) from the family of Lee Tremer in 1976 while he was still working for the St. Paul Water Department.
Since then, the bar has expanded a bit and added some Elvis memorabilia to go with the taxidermy on the walls, but not a lot else has changed — other than the thousands of people who walk past it 80-plus nights a year for Twins games. Lee's remains a staple for traditional country and rockabilly musicians, one of whom, Texas star Dale Watson, recently wrote a song about the place titled "Louie's Lee's Liquor Lounge."
Sirian is not saying what sort of price he has in mind for selling.
"I think someone could do something real nice with this place, especially if they added food service to it," he said. With only a few inquiries so far, though, "It's still mine for the foreseeable future."