For 30 years, Harold “Red” Goldberg created a community for dozens of hardscrabble regulars at his Minneapolis bar, feeding them holiday dinners, giving out winter coats and providing a safe, judgment-free space to gather.
His Glenwood Avenue tavern, Red’s Roost, welcomed everyone — and even hosted the occasional wedding or wake for its patrons, family members said.
“Our bar was the last neighborhood bar. It was like a Cheers,” wife Rivia Goldberg said. “It was their home, and Red was like their father.”
Goldberg, 93, died Jan. 10 at his St. Louis Park home after a long illness.
Born in north Minneapolis, Goldberg was the second of five sons. After his father had a stroke when Goldberg was 8 years old, Goldberg began working multiple jobs to support his family. That’s where his empathy for the less fortunate originated, his wife said.
Rivia Goldberg met her future husband when both were growing up. His gentle, kind demeanor impressed her, she said. “A lot of kids were smart-alecky in those days — he wasn’t,” she said.
The pair married after Goldberg mustered out of the Air Force. They had two daughters and a son. Goldberg trained to be a baker, but that job was cut short after a hand injury. After dabbling in other careers, Goldberg took over a downtown bar from his wife’s uncles. He bought it in 1969 and renamed it Red’s Roost because everyone knew him as “Red,” a testament to his hair color.
While Goldberg rarely drank, tending bar suited him. He was funny and loved to talk — and people loved talking to him, Rivia Goldberg said.
The bar was in a rough area near a bus station and attracted a motley crowd. Goldberg treated his patrons with respect and kept a tidy, safe bar.
“He was his own bouncer, he had his own laws,” said Rivia Goldberg, who worked at the bar on weekends with her husband.
The Goldbergs owned a hotel upstairs, allowing Red to shelter needy customers. He handed out free boots, coats and food — including his specialty, meatloaf sandwiches. Non-necessities like alcohol, however, cost money, said daughter Jacque Rosenau.
When an employee died with no wake planned, Goldberg closed the bar and hosted an emotional ceremony, Rosenau said.
Goldberg sometimes surprised hustlers by challenging them to a game of pool, Rosenau said. He played with a broomstick — and beat them.
When Prince needed a staging area during the filming of 1984’s “Purple Rain,” Goldberg volunteered his bar. Prince thanked Goldberg by having him play the landlord who shows Apollonia her hotel room, Rosenau said. “That actually turned him into a bit of a cult figure,” she said.
When not at work, Goldberg relished fishing on Lake Minnetonka — which he knew like the back of his hand — and near his Monticello cabin.
He was the center of attention at family events, Rivia Goldberg said, and children loved him. For his girls’ birthdays, Goldberg decorated doll cakes using a Barbie as the base and fashioning a skirt made of cake.
Daughter Sandi Pendergast took over the bar in 1988. She renamed it Blues Alley, bringing in notable jazz and blues musicians to perform. After Goldberg sold the bar 15 years ago, it became the Seville Club. Family members said the ownership change ended an era of Minneapolis history: “It will never be the same,” Pendergast said.
Goldberg was preceded in death by his son, Michael, and brothers Albert and Benjamin Goldberg. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Rivia, daughters Rosenau and Pendergast, daughter-in-law Patt Goldberg and brothers Henry Berg and David Goldberg. Services have been held.