On many Friday nights, upwards of 30,000 people flood downtown Minneapolis. They come to party, they come to panhandle, they come to pretty much do whatever they want.

From carefree clubbers to graying theatergoers, this motley assortment always seems to cross paths at one spot -- the sidewalks around Block E. While the inside of this $150 million monstrosity is underwhelming, the sidewalks around it are well-worn by people making their way between the bar scene on 1st Avenue and the theater district on Hennepin.

We spent a recent Friday night around Block E, stepping over puke (from the drunks) and poop (from the police horses), hoping to capture a bit of what makes this area such a crossroads for nightlife.

You only turn 21 once

It wouldn't be a 21st birthday without a night of downtown debauchery. The birthday girl  -- wearing the furry pink tiara -- celebrated with her girlfriends from Thief River Falls, Minn., (from left), Sara Kalinoski, Kristi Joppru, Lindsey Nordhagen and Kelly Bendickson. "She hasn't had enough shots!" bellowed Nordhagen, 25, as they headed into the Lone Tree at 12:56 a.m. "We have to give her more shots!"


"It's not a Segway," Minneapolis Police Sgt. Gary Nelson said emphatically. It's a T3, he said, and it has a lot of advantages. It's fast (up to 25 miles per hour), it's agile (it rides on sidewalks) and it's green-friendly (an electric motor). "The best part: It doesn't leave 20 pounds of crap on the street," Nelson said.

Young love

After stuffing themselves at Bellanotte, it was snuggle time for Laura Deede of Plymouth and Pete Soderling of Golden Valley, both 22, on a quiet bench away from the block's panhandlers and drunken troublemakers. While some people view downtown as dangerous, "I've always felt safe," she said. "One of my guy friends just got mugged recently, but I'm still down here."

Forever young

Some downtown doormen take their jobs super-seriously. Across the street from Block E at 11:24 p.m., Caliann Lum (left) had a hard time getting into current hot spot Seven Sushi. "They wouldn't let me in because I don't have my I.D.," she said, feeling sort of flattered, but also annoyed. Lum and friend Nancy Jones had just come from an Olympics-watching party, where they had dressed the part with an assortment of Asian attire.

Hustle and flow

Best Buy it ain't, but the street corners around Block E are as good a place as any to sell your first rap album. Aspiring rappers Torii Magic (left), Ill Will and Zay Knight were asking just $2 a pop for their CD, "Money$ota's 1st." By 12:45 a.m., they had only a couple fistfuls left after starting the night with a few hundred copies. "This is where everybody is at," said Knight, 21. "If you want to get heard, this is where you want to be."

Book a cab

Somebody has to get these party animals home, right? Haileslassie Kassa of Woodbury read a novel from his home country of Ethiopia as he sat in his Red & White cab, parked in a line of taxis outside Bellanotte. "Business is very slow," he said just after 1 a.m. "It's been 45 minutes without a fare."

Large and in charge

At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, bouncer Stephen Gosala, 24, is an imposing figure. But as of 1:17 a.m., he'd seen little action in front of Gluek's, across from Block E on 6th Street. Plus, body-slamming an obnoxious patron to the curb is overrated, he said: "You don't always have to get physical. I try and work it out with them. I give them a chance."

Miniskirt marathon

At 12:43 a.m., Angie Anderson, right, 22, and Jennifer Ridley, 23, came rushing down Hennepin on their way to Spin nightclub. They were in town from Miami, but too busy to say why. "I only got an hour to get drunk," Anderson said, clomping away in her 4-inch heels.

thorgen@startribune.com • 612-673-7909