The kind of old-school yet young-and-punky dive bar where regular patrons typically have a wide range of good, bad and ugly stories to tell, Christensen’s Big V’s Saloon near the corner of University and Snelling in St. Paul’s Midway area has been sold and will be reborn under a new name in March.
Owner Vic “Big V” Masanz and his wife Jeanne had been looking to sell their enduring watering hole for several years. Construction of the Minnesota United’s new $250 million stadium, Allianz Field -- set to open in mid-April -- has already reshaped the neighborhood and added incentive for new owners, as did the addition of the Green Line light-rail track along University Avenue in 2014.
"It was good timing, because we're ready to throw in the towel," said Vic Masanz, who's owned the bar for 40 years. "We had our fun in that time, but I'm almost 70 years old and want to enjoy my time doing other things now."
Masanz did not name or say much about the new owner, except to confirm plans to rename the place the Midway Saloon, add a patio and make much-needed upgrades to the restrooms and other structural improvements.
The Masanzes announced the changeover with a message on their website and Facebook page that thanked patrons, employees and the music community:
We would like to inform you that we have sold our establishment and Big V’s Saloon will become Midway Saloon starting the beginning of March. With that said it’s time to say farewell. Thank you to all the customers for all the good years of your patronage. Thank you to all the bands, soundmen and bookers for the great music and entertainment that you provided over the years. Thank you to all of our employees for all your hard work. See you on the flip side.
Big V and Jeanne
In a heavily trafficked location that’s been one bar or another dating back to the late-1800s, Big V’s has hosted a rather eclectic clientele for much of the past two decades, with daytime regulars from the neighborhood giving way to younger punk, metal and indie-rock bands and fans by night. City Pages named it the Twin Cities’ best dive bar in 2014, and it has earned many similar distinctions over the years.
The live music calendar at Big V’s has petered out of late with the pending sale. However, the venue's former talent booker Ryan O'Rourke -- who became a staple at the nearby Turf Club -- and musician/stage-tech Brian Herb are reportedly lining up some bands from the bar's past to play a series of farewell shows in late February. Stay tuned.
Here are a couple old music clips that show off the incomparable Big V's vibe.