August 4, 2016

Lee's Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis

Lee's Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis

photo by: Jenny Salita/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Lee's is housed in an circa-1891 former warehouse.

Live music, a taxidermied mountain lion, and an Elvis shrine are all things you’ll find every single night at Lee’s Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis.

Housed in a 125-year-old former warehouse, the joint has been a mainstay in the city’s historically working-class North Loop neighborhood since 1957. The eponymous Lee Triemert and his wife, Sally, ran the bar together until Lee passed away in 1976, and locals Louis and Carmen Sirian purchased it in 1977. Under the Sirians’ watch, Lee’s served as a pool hall until 1985, when Louis decided the clientele had gotten too rough. He added a stage and knocked down some walls, and the bar began its tradition of live music and revelry that continues to this day. Lee’s hospitality is so famous that Texas musician Dale Watson, a regular performer, even wrote a song about it.

The North Loop has seen rapid changes in the past few years, especially since the construction of Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, in 2007. But Lee’s still prides itself on bringing in old-timers with its no-frills atmosphere, alongside the more recent pre-baseball crowds. Domestic beer and pizza specials run every weeknight, and a constantly changing lineup of country, roots, and rock performers grace the stage.

Last year Louis, who is now 80, sold Lee’s to entrepreneur Craig Kruckeberg, whose biggest nod to modernization thus far has been installing cash registers that take credit cards. In the interest of keeping the performance space current, Kruckeberg also refurbished the stage, updated the lighting, and installed a new sound system.

What does the future hold for Lee’s? General manager James Ryan says that he and Kruckeberg have talked about installing a kitchen, since the only food that Lee’s currently offers is local pizza brand Heggie’s, but it might be too cost-prohibitive for the time being. "It doesn't matter how big or small you go, it's money, man," Ryan says.

photo by: Michael Hicks/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Things have remained largely unchanged at Lee's throughout its 59-year history.

This past March, Lee’s started experimenting with hosting heavy metal bands once a week. “It’s a just a matter of continuing to expand the fan base of Lee’s—people who have never been here before,” Ryan says.

If you live in the Twin Cities or plan to make a pit stop there sometime soon, there’s no better place than Lee’s for a taste of what makes Minneapolis so special. Here are a few things to know before you go:

Location: 101 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403

Hours: 4:30 p.m.-1 or 2 a.m., seven days a week; 10:30 a.m.-1 or 2 a.m. on Twins game days.

You're having: The happy hour special, 4:30-9 p.m. on weekdays: a tallboy and a pizza slice for $5.

Best Yelp review: "Taxidermy and Elvis? What's not to like?"

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

@kateallthetime

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