EXCELSIOR BLVD.’S BEER HALLS

From the Re-Echo, June 2007

It is a glad coincidence that the St. Louis Park directory started at about the same time that prohibition was repealed, in December 1934. Ads tell us about some of the bars and restaurants around town. Beer was the first to be legalized, and Excelsior Blvd. was dotted with beer halls and “chicken shacks” in the 1930s and 40s. Beer was even being served on tap at gas stations. Here’s a look at some of the hot spots on Excelsior.
 

Al’s Café/Place/Bar was one of several places that operated as a “confectionary” before repeal, but one could get a drink in the basement. It’s now the only actual “bar” in town.
 

Jennings Tavern was established in 1934. The first post-prohibition liquor license issued by the Park was to Mike Jennings’ wife Harriet. Ads boasted two cocktail lounges. The décor of the original building was “old log cabin.”

Henry Aretz opened Bunny’s in 1933. The story goes that the place was intended to be named Aretz’s Place, but Henry got a good deal on the Bunnys sign . (No apostrophe, just Bunnys!)
 

Now K-9 Hydrotherapy, in 1933 there was the Bright Spot Restaurant, featuring Gluek’s and Schell’s beer on draught. From about 1935 to ‘39, it was the Chick-Inn, a dance hall and 3.2 beer joint. Draft beer cost 5 cents and a pitcher was 25 cents – “what a deal.” This was your last chance for beer until you reached Hopkins. Fried Chicken sandwiches were 25 cents,

Evidence of the El Patio Cafe and Dance Club, pronounced “el PAY sho,” goes back to at least 1930. This was a bar, restaurant, and dance hall. One of the classiest establishments on the Boulevard, in the early days it catered to the Country Club and University crowds. But some say that it served “cold coffee” just a tad before the act was repealed.

In 1933, there was a beer tavern called Roach’s, run by J.W. Roach, who, inevitably, was known as “Cocky Roach.”

From about 1939 to about 1942, the Swan Café was operated by Charles Swahn. This building was once occupied by Park Baptist Church.

As early as 1926, during prohibition, the building widely known as Brookside Drug was the Hollywood Inn. In 1928, it allowed dancing. 1933 ads invited the populace to the Cozy Corner. In 1934, the Brookside Inn restaurant/cafe and confectionery featured music and dancing. Also in 1934, the Venetian Pool Beer Garden had tables with umbrellas in back when the weather was nice, and colorful lights strung from the ceiling.

In 1933-35, Walt’s Canteen/Poirer’s Tavern was “Where the Homefolks go for a Pleasant Evening.” In his memoir, Morton Arneson complained that the music from the honky tonk across the street kept him awake all night; Walt’s was probably the culprit.

Minikahda Gardens was one of the first places you came to from Minneapolis. Like Al’s, it was popular on Mpls. election days when drinking was suspended there.

In later years, many more bars and restaurants materialized, including Gipper’s, Infinity, Classic, Foo Chu, Timothy O’Tooles, Jennings Red Coach Inn, Park Terrace, Underwood’s, Lynch’s, George’s in the Park, Duff’s, Culbertson’s, Duggan’s, George Faust’s, and the King’s Inn.

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