The weekend's marquee event may not kick off until Sunday night, but Super Bowl eve brought a show of its own stretching into the early Sunday morning hours as thousands of revelers — many of them underdressed for the weather — packed downtown Minneapolis bars and restaurants.
Businesses with normally steady crowds were faced with lines out the door as patrons clamored to get inside, with entrance limited by space and fire code restrictions. Even with many bars and clubs remaining open until 4 a.m., police say the night was relatively peaceful.
"On the whole, given the number of people downtown, things went very, very well," said police spokesman John Elder, who said he heard of no significant disturbances or any arrest total that was out of the ordinary. Jail records show no significant jump in bookings.
Elder said that with the "cold weather, people were not inclined to hang around" once the bars closed either at their normal 2 a.m. or the Super Bowl-related witching hour.
Since Jan. 26, when police intensified its presence in the precinct that includes downtown, officers have made 75 arrests, Elder said. That's 42 fewer than in the same period a year ago, he said.
At midnight, hundreds of people meandered around a slushy and gridlocked Hennepin Avenue. Though temperatures held barely above 0, with frigid winds, women were seen in miniskirts, T-shirts and backless gowns.
"One more!" chanted a man wearing a Patriots T-shirt and cap, trying to summon good luck for his team. "It's cold as hell! It's Minnesota!" shouted another, whooshing his female companion from a bar to an Uber. For several hours, at least from midnight until past 4 a.m., Hennepin Avenue was in gridlock.
Some waited in lines outside strip clubs with $100 covers. For $300 admission, rapper and actor Nick Cannon spun Cardi B tunes inside The Pourhouse. A woman dressed from head to toe in multicolored lights danced furiously while several others in scantily clad referee outfits sang and danced along.
At 4 a.m., the streets around Hennepin filled with even more people, many slipping on the ice while trying to find their Ubers in a sea of black cars. A line formed outside Sal's on Fifth pizza shop and stretched down the block, with a security guard struggling to keep confused or angry patrons in line. People walked all over Hennepin with no regard for traffic signals or oncoming cars.
Police wearing fluorescent green vests and facemasks marched the street in dozens. Outside Pourhouse, emergency vehicles with flashing lights parked the wrong way turned congested traffic into gridlock. A police officer outside would give no details, other than to say someone got hurt inside. An ambulance screamed down the street going toward an unrelated scene.
Most partyers, both out-of-towners and Minnesotans, cursed the cold as they huddled in the Metro Transit bus and light rail heated terminals. Others took refuge under the Copper Pot Indian Grill sign off Hennepin Avenue, where a light provided little warmth.
Toes and knees were exposed. Even nearly half of one man's chest was exposed in the 2-degree weather. The man, wearing a red thin tank top and jeans, was seen bar-hopping down Hennepin. Around 3:30 a.m. he was seen entering a vehicle — hopefully his cab ride home.
Star Tribune staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036 Karen Zamora • 612-673-4647