Grumpy’s bar goes down swinging

There’s not much need for marketing niceties once you’re being forced out of business, so Grumpy’s Bar didn’t provide any in its official announcement that it will close its downtown location at 11th and South Washington in Minneapolis because the city, apparently, doesn’t yet have enough rectangular, incredibly dull, unimaginatively designed luxury condo and apartment buildings.

In a Facebook post today, Grumpy’s blamed food trucks, property taxes, old buildings and people from the suburbs.

Warning: Obscenity follows.

  • Nato Coles

    Losing the Triple Rock for many of the same reasons was equally bad, but in some ways this one is worse – the building isn’t becoming a community center/grocery store, it’s being torn down and replaced by what will almost certainly be a half-empty 8 story apartment building with units available at the “market rate” (which, downtown, means one needs an upper-middle-class income to live in one.

    Day Block will still be there, though, so I suppose I can get a beer there and frown at the eastern wall if I want.

    • Joe

      The residential vacancy rate downtown is 0.2%, so it’s highly doubtful it will sit empty. Many people want to live downtown and there isn’t enough housing for them. So it makes sense to build larger buildings where needed.

      This one is weird though, because they could leave Grumpy’s and just build a square building on all those parking lots. It’d be the same size and leave Grumpy’s.

      • Jerry

        Nobody lives downtown anymore, it’s too popular.

  • Change happens. Let’s hope that eventually there will be a critical mass of downtown residents to support decent food stores and other necessities.

    • Driving down S. Washington now is an excercise in sameness. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so much generic in one place.

      • MrE85

        That Dunn Bros in the old railroad luggage building is still pretty unique.

      • Joe

        It used to be 15 parking lots, and now it’s 15 similar-looking buildings (with retail and restaurants right on the sidewalk!). I’ll take the buildings and all the vitality they bring over vast stretches of asphalt any day.

        • If that’s the only choice you think you have, sure.

          • Postal Customer

            What is the other choice you think he has? Minneapolis wants to kill surface parking lots. The thing that goes in their place is buildings. Joe didn’t do that.

            Washington is a million times better than it was 20 years ago.

          • The choice is not – or should not — be surface lots vs uninteresting sameness. It should be interesting and imaginative vs. uninteresting sameness.

            There’s about 20-25 new buildings on S. Washington. They couldn’t come up with one that didn’t look pretty much exactly like the one next to it?

          • Joe

            Most of the old buildings in the North Loop look very similar. All of the houses on the Milwaukee Ave historic district look extremely similar. Which makes sense, as they were all built for similar uses at the same time. I think they look beautiful. Their sameness is even codified in the historic district that is placed around both of them.

            Sameness is not inherently bad. At least to my eye.

          • Jerry

            That’s going to happen when buildings are all built in the same generation for the same function with profit margins in mind.

          • John

            One block away sit both the Guthrie and Izzy’s. Both are interesting buildings. The central library, which I think is right on Washington (? I could be off by a block here too – I don’t go down there all that often) is a pretty unique building as well.

            Point is, there’s a lot of sameness, but there’s some interesting stuff going up too. (Hey – there’s a giant cruise ship moored just a few blocks away too – it’s ugly, but it’s different looking).

          • Jerry

            They also managed, in that sea of sameness, to save the old brothel.

          • Nato Coles

            I wonder how many people actually know the history of that building? I learned it from this book:

          • There’s a giant cruise ship in Mpls? Tell more, plz.

          • Oh, wait. You mean that horrible, horrible assault on the eyes near Portland. Yeah.

          • John

            Yeah, that’s the one. Used to have a giant deflatable marshmallow on the site.

          • Jack

            Looks more like an ark.

            With all the rain, we might be needing it.

          • I call it the “Sandcrawler.”

      • Jerry
        • That’s silly to suggest that there were only two choices.

          Keillor once described Minneapolis architecture while noting St. Paul is pumpernickel . He was right. St. Paul’s buildings are much more splendid.

          A fine example is the old Woolworth building on Robert Street which imaginitively integrated the old building into a much larger and quite imaginative design.

          Anybody can build square boxes of sameness, as downtown Minneapolis has proven.

          • Joe

            But the old grand ones were torn down. Well before my time. So now we could either say no to any developer coming along trying to build a building that doesn’t meet Bob’s standards, and just sit with our parking lots, or we could bring back residents and retail and fun to downtown.

            And just to compare, no one is building beautiful new buildings in St. Paul either. The new ones being built look much the same as those in Minneapolis.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            Agreed. The Ox-Bow building on the site of the old 7 Corners hardware looks a lot like the building on Snelling and Selby with the Whole Foods at street level. (That used to be a Bremer Bank location.) Throw in the building on the corner of University and Hamline on what was an abandon car dealership and you have 3 examples of an early 21st Century take on an old urban architecture concept: retail on the street and apartments above. As my mother likes to comment when I mention the “new trend” in urban building, her grandfather had the tailor shop at street level and the family lived in an apartment “over the store”.

            Just for those looking for another example, when they figure out who the anchor retail tenants will be the old Sibley Plaza on West 7th and Davern is supposed to be converted into the same type of development. I suspect the buildings won’t be too different from the others going up in the city.

          • Jerry

            And in 40 years there will be fights to save these buildings and people will be complaining about all the torus shaped buildings that will replace them.

          • jon
          • Jerry
          • Jeff
          • jon

            That is literally a box… it’s labeled as such…

            However, buildings that are bigger on the inside will be a boon to walkability… though google maps is going to need some significant upgrades to handle non-three-dimensional spaces.

          • Jerry

            No non-Euclidean architecture. Frank Gehry already has that covered with his attempts to summon Cthulhu at the Weissman.

          • jon

            That’s a fair point… after the events on the roof of 550 Central Park West in the 1984 documentary I’m pretty certain we shouldn’t let architects make creative buildings, unless we can definitely confirm they aren’t member of the cult of gozer.

          • >>Frank Gehry already has that covered with his attempts to summon Cthulhu at the Weissman.<<

            Ugh, I hate that building…

            /U of MN Studio Art degree

          • They hated the Vietnam War memorial wall too. sometims it takes awhile. :*)

          • Gary F

            I love my 2012 Taurus.

          • Mike

            You’d think it would at least be cheap to live in an ugly shoebox, surrounded by busy streets and car exhaust. You’d be wrong. The developers must be marketing geniuses.

          • Joe

            This is the architectural beauty you’d like to keep. Not Woolworth’s.


          • I’m sorry, I missed something. Can you point me to where I said I want to keep Grumpy’s? I favor a new building, sure. But I favor one that wasn’t the first semester project in Architecture 101.

          • Jerry

            Keillor also thinks it is still 1959.

          • Every period has a design associated with it. Some great — art deco — some not so great — 1970s utilitarian. Great design stands the test of time.

          • John O.

            It’s going to be interesting to see what the restoration of the Endicott Arcade looks like once that is completed. The restored Pioneer Building is gorgeous.

        • John O.

          It also looks like that the train depot is still open in that photo. The parking lot makes sense for that era.

          • Jerry

            The problem is that when the depot and mills closed, the rail yards also got replaced by parking lots.

  • MrE85

    I’m surprised they didn’t cite the smoking ban as well as us monsters from the suburbs.

    Speaking of the smoking ban, I note also that Stub & Herbs, the Stadium Village bar once owned by smoke-lover Sue Jeffers, has been purchased by the U of M Foundation.

    • John O.

      The owner noted in one article that he had received multiple offers to sell to buyers wanting to put up a behemoth like the one going up where the old Village Wok/Big Ten/Harvard Market used to be, but passed on all of them. He anticipates Sturbs being there for at least two more years. I’m fine with the U retaining that property.

      Stub and Herbs was a hangout for us parking lot attendants after hours, so it was funny to go in all these years later and see staff wearing t-shirts that said “Your Grandpa Used to Drink Here.”


      • MrE85

        I worked in that neighborhood for 6 years, so I’m pretty familiar with S & H. I miss the Village Wok’s hot & sour soup. Best I’ve ever had. I hope they carry through with their plan to reopen in the new building.

        • John O.

          Likewise! The owner of the Big Ten had told me at our last visit before closing that the family that owned the Village Wok were also the property owners and they were going to get a new space as part of the purchase agreement.

  • Jim in RF

    I’ll never understand why food trucks are given such an advantage over brick and mortar places. No restroom requirements, use streets for almost free, customer trash is the city’s problem, no real estate taxes, much lower permits; municipalities stack the deck against traditional restaurants.

    • MrE85

      It’s a two-edged sword. Some brick-and-mortar places have jumped in with trucks of their own (Anchor Fish & Chips, Rusty Taco), while some food trucks have morphed into very successful static locations (Hola Arepa, Vellee Deli). Grump’s also had a chance to play at the food truck game (I’ve NEVER seen a truck on Washington Ave, BTW), they just choose not to.

    • Joe

      Except whenever a food truck has the chance to open a traditional restaurant they leap at the opportunity, and often close down the food truck. So it can’t be that much better.

      They’ve also been a great incubator for brick and mortar restaurants.

      • Jim in RF

        I think that that’s the exception rather than the rule. There’s a lot of empty restaurant space that trucks are leaping for.

    • RBHolb

      Food trucks are seasonal, for one thing. They are also able to serve fewer customers per day than a regular restaurant.

      And if they’re competing on price, they’re doing a lousy job of it.

    • Al

      I love that I can get new and different things at food trucks (infinite variety! fun experiments! to boot, many are women- and POC-owned). Why would I go to Grumpy’s to get the EXACT SAME PUB FOOD I CAN FIND LITERALLY ANYWHERE? Besides the clearly delightful ambiance, of course. Are their curds really better than the fifty billion other curds at fifty billion other restaurants?

    • KTFoley

      I think it’s important to consider the evolution of food truck regulations over time, especially in downtown Minneapolis where the pre-2013 ordinances were limited enough that they weren’t really a presence to speak of.

      This, from 2016, tells us something about the how things moved in 3 years.

  • Joe

    Also, what shape of building are you looking to get if rectangular is no good to you? Biodomes?

    This new building isn’t even rectangular anyway, at least from above.

    • I don’t have anything against rectangles. I’m not particularly partial to everything being rectangles. Blocks and blocks of shoeboxes is uniquely Minneapolitan that presents a rather dull sameness to the area.

      • Jerry

        The big problem is that all these buildings are being built at the same time, instead of over generations. This results in a certain uniformity which would not be there if the development was more gradual.

        • jon

          the problem is we’ve figured out how to mass produce buildings.

          Old buildings were one offs, built to fit the site, highlight the views, and utilize local resources…

          Now we build them we pre-fab’d tension re-enforced concrete, slapped together and off we go…

          Houses are the same way… they all look the same because they are all made of the same stuff, orientated the same way, and we made the streets in subdivisions curvy instead of straight to make it look like something other than a housing project…

          I suspect we are moving towards architects being more like automotive engineers, refining existing designs, rather than starting with a blank sheet of paper… using existing prefab parts that were used in other buildings to keep costs down…

          Mass produced buildings, assembled on site… (just like newer suburban houses)

          • Kassie

            This isn’t a new thing. Our house, built in 1921, is the same as thousands of other houses. I’m sure in 1921 you could walk through our neighborhood and think all the buildings look the same. Today there have been additions and changes to houses, houses that have been replaced with newer buildings, etc and it looks different. One Grain or Lumber exchange looks a lot like another, but because the buildings around them have changed, they look different and unique.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            Our house is very similar to the one next us and there are some similar ones in the neighborhood. My wife did some research and thinks they are both “Craftsman houses”. You could buy the house from Sears and they’d deliver the materials and a local builder to construct the house. Some of those designs are now considered “classic”.

          • Oh man, I love seeing those. There are a few of them in S Minneapolis, I think they are on Nicollet and 55th or so.

          • Joe

            Those are Lustron homes on Nicollet, not Sears and/or Craftsmans. There are a number of Sears homes in Minneapolis, many in Longfellow.

          • Ah, that’s right. Thanks for that info.

            /Mine is a South Minneapolis bungalow built in 1928.

      • Joe

        Uniquely Minneapolitan it is not. Any city with a building boom right now has buildings just like this.

        St. Paul has old buildings, yes, great. But we can’t build old buildings now.

        Point me to new buildings in St. Paul that are more beautiful than these on Washington. I keep pretty good track and haven’t seen any.

        • I favor “interesting”. I would think if you throw up 20 buildings, you’d get one or two that you can say “wow, that’s different and interesting. ” But they’re all alike. It’s like the suburbs except for the lack of beige.

          • Joe

            I totally agree it’d be nice if we got some variety. But that’s not the option we’ve been given.

            You keep saying it’s uniquely Minneapolis (it’s not), and that St. Paul is more architecturally interesting (true, but that is largely because there is far more new building in Minneapolis than St. Paul).

            What actually is another viable option for us now? Say no to new development (and sit tight with our parking lots)? Impose rigorous regulations about building variety (would that work)?

          • I would think a planning approval process would involve design and cityscape considerations. And if it the sense was that the proposal did not heighten a sense of place, the developers would be encouraged to try again.

          • Joe

            This new building does heighten the sense of place. It adds many residents to the neighborhood. It eliminates a parking lot. It improves the heavily used bike lane along 11th.

            I get that it doesn’t please your eye as you drive through our city. But the goal of the planning approval process should be more about making the city a better place for residents (which this does) than placating the drivers of Woodbury.

          • Ah, the obligatory us vs. them response. Always an effective assessment. Grumpy’s like in its simplicity.

          • Joe


            I like the building boom. I live here. You don’t, and don’t live here. For the city to take your opinion over mine, you should have a good one. I’m trying to probe you to see if you have a good one, and you keep not providing anything of substance, except that you don’t like the new buildings.

          • Again, I never said anything about not liking buildings because they’re new so I don’t know why you feel the need to reframe the point in order to respond to it.

            But you should at least consider why what’s happening is happening. I was just discussing this with Stephanie Curtis for the podcast who has a design friend who says that once a design gets through the approval process in Minneapolis, for example, other developers, not wanting to spend any more money than they have to, essentially submit the same design in order to gain approval. They can say “hey, you approved THAT design, so you should approve this one.”

            And that’s fair. They’re trying to make money.

            I get the parochial instinct, but the city is a canvas and you have to at least acknowledge that the results of that process — no matter how fair — has still created a cookie-cutter streetscape that represents a missed opportunity for the streetscape to mirror the diversity and whimsy of the city.

            Regardless of where one lives, I don’t think there’s anyone who takes a drive along South Washington Avenue that can honestly say that the collective design sensibility does that.

          • Joe

            I only bike and walk down Washington, but it is a million times better than it was 15 years ago. I honestly don’t notice the similarity of the buildings as much as I notice the vibrancy of the place. I’m happy with the outcome we have. It could be better, but it could be worse (and was worse not too long ago).

  • Barton

    Well, I’m sorry I missed the post before it was deleted.

    That said, Grumpy’s cannot blame their closing on Food Trucks: it wasn’t safe to eat from their kitchen anyway.

    • Nato Coles

      This is not correct.


    /FWIW: I met my wife at that Grumpy’s

  • Angry Jonny

    RIP Grumpy’s BASH.