There is no place in the Twin Cities quite like Clubhouse Jäger. It's not enough to say it's beautiful, to discuss the details of its architecture, to describe the huge patio that puts most local outdoor spaces to shame. It's not enough, because to pick out a series of notes is to distract from the whole -- an experience that's adult and jeune, lively, noble, comfortable and classy, cluttered and spare.
The nightspot, on the northern edge of Minneapolis' North Loop, has just the right combination of classicism and kitsch, with bas-relief and a disco ball happily coexisting in the same space. The ceiling in the women's restroom, with its chandelier and pink tin ceiling, makes one think of Marie Antoinette, of cakes and pastries, of luscious lovely things. The cabinetry behind the bar, all mirrors and reflected light, is full of charming ephemera, including ancient cans of Gluek's beer, a humble nod to Jäger's origins.
You see, once upon a time, most bars in Minneapolis were Grain Belt bars, Gluek's bars or Hamm's bars. To own a bar, you had to be affiliated with a brewery. What is now Clubhouse Jäger was one of those Gluek's bars; it is now the only original Gluek's bar left in the city. It's been a bar straight on through the past 102 years, with the better part of the past few decades seeing the place descend into one of the worst dives around. The building's previous incarnation, Brandon's 923, "was the bar with the No. 1 amount of 911 calls," claims Jäger general manager Angie Heitz, where one could purchase "crack from the register, or from a van out in the parking lot."
While those days are a thing of the past, Jäger has not been without its growing pains. Last year, a brouhaha rose over a fight involving a local musician. Allegations of anti-Semitism were made toward owner Julius Jaeger De Roma and his staff, with the situation flaring up to become one of those things everyone talks about but very few have any hard facts on. "It was, in my estimation, a bar fight," says Heitz. "We resolved it the way we should have resolved it, kicked out the people who started the fight. It's done."
Whatever the details, Clubhouse Jäger has gained a reputation as one of the best laid-back, friendly, hip destinations around. De Roma purchased the building in 2006, stripping away ugly foam tiles to expose the original tin ceiling, wainscoting and leaded glass windows that run the perimeter of the bar. You can even see the original Gluek's "G" insignia in the windowpane above the door.
Every night is different at Jäger, which is closed Sundays and Mondays. DJ Jonathan Ackerman spins on Tuesday. On Wednesdays, DJ Jake Rudh packs the dance floor with his long-running British- and '80s-driven Transmission Night. Thursday is "Hot Pants" funk and soul night, Friday has live music, and Saturday has a revolving roster, including DJ collectives such as Attitude City and the record-collecting ladies of Double Trouble. And this weekend brings the indoor/outdoor Jägerfest celebration, the bar's take on Oktoberfest ("No chicks in lederhosen, sadly," says Heitz). Jägerfest comes at a time when the bar seems as popular as ever, even as it has continued to fly under the radar of many clubgoers.
"We want to be the best little bar you never heard about," Heitz says.