"Everybody wants to own their own bar. But how many get to own a bar like Palmer's?"
As he spoke those words Sunday, Tony Zaccardi's enthusiasm rippled through the phone like his bass playing has through so many P.A. systems around Minnesota. It was excitement shared across the Twin Cities Twittersphere over the weekend, as the ubiquitous bassist and popular bartender spilled the news he is buying Palmer's Bar, the Minneapolis West Bank's most enduring watering hole.
The Robbinsdale native — known from such bands as Romantica, Eleganza, Kruddler and his Guns N' Roses tribute group Appetite for Zaccardi — plans to officially take over Palmer's in early May if all goes according to plan. He signed a purchase agreement Saturday with the bar's steadfast co-owner since 2001, Lisa Hammer, who has been looking to sell since the unexpected death of her husband Keith Berg in 2015. She was reportedly waiting for the right person to buy a bar whose signage reads, "Sorry, we're open," and clearly she found him.
Zaccardi informally announced the news via social media with photo that showed him standing alongside Hammer and the declaration, "Cheers to the future!" Zaccardi has been a fixture at Grumpy's Northeast for much of its 20 years, and obviously he has also gotten to know the ins and outs of the bar business through his many musical ventures. He noted of Grumpy's NE owner Pat Dwyer, "He's been so supportive of this and knows exactly why I want it."
Hailed as one of the "Best Bars in America" by Esquire magazine in 2014, Palmer's opened in 1906 at 500 Cedar Av. S. and survived Prohibition to become a prime hangout during the West Bank music scene of the '60s and '70s. It has retained its regular patrons over the past couple decades — including Minnesota music legend Spider John Koerner — while attracting younger punk-rockers and hippie kids with its cheap drinks and low-key but often high-level live music, such as Friday mainstays the Liquor Pigs.
Zaccardi intends to keep the clientele, music calendar and cheap drinks at Palmer's intact with just a few new twists, including more events out on the bar's surprisingly nice patio. "A lot of people don't even know about that patio, which is too bad," he noted. Well versed in the Minnesota craft beer movement before there was a lot of movement to it, he also intends to offer a wider range of brews. Oh, and he will add at least one not-so-modern invention: a credit card reader. But that's about it.
"It's Palmer's," Zaccardi flatly summed up. "I'm not going to screw it up."