Somali children's center is likely to replace 400 Bar

The venerable nightspot may get a new lease on life in new location.

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400 Bar at the Ceder-Riverside area.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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After the 400 Bar went 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 likely be converted into a community center for Somali-American children, according to Abdighani M. Ali, the building's new owner.

Joe O'Brien, a new business partner with the family that has operated the bar since the mid-1990s, said the 400 likely will live on in a new location.

A message 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 Av. S. would be changing hands.

"After 17 years of presenting shows, we've closed the old building on the West Bank," said the message. "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. He would say only that the building has been bought by Ali, an assistant director of a south Minneapolis charter school called Banaadir Academy and a Somali and Muslim community leader. Ali confirmed Friday that he has indeed bought the building.

The 400 Bar is just a few doors down from Dar Al-Hijrah, a mosque and Islamic center in the heavily Somali neighborhood that has grown near the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in 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 a surprise. The 400 Bar's bookings have tapered off in the past couple of years, and there were no shows at all on the calendar for 2013.

The club presented plenty of well-known acts before they became famous, including Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire, White Stripes, Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power and Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst. The latter three acts each performed in the Twin Cities during 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 years spent on the road with both the Replacements and Soul Asylum. He hosted such concerts as Paul Westerberg's private gig when his wife, Laurie Lindeen, graduated from grad school, a girlfriend's birthday party celebration by Golden Smog, and 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.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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