The Uptown Bar, remembered by a regular
|Photo by Steve Cohen|
Not Just Another Article about the Uptown
By Helm Matthews
When I told a friend that I was going to write a piece about the Uptown bar he smiled and said, "Get in line." I realize there have been many articles already written about this Minneapolis institution, but they all seem to have the same theme: memories. The writers wrote of memories of bands that have played there or memories of what happened downstairs or memories of a first date. And that is fine. I enjoyed reading them.
But another road down memory lane is not what you're about to read. I wanted to write about the living thing that was the Uptown. All great landmarks become great because they eventually come alive. They evolve into something bigger than the building. When a staffer there told me that the Uptown will probably move elsewhere I smirked a little. Inside I knew it wouldn't be the same place.
A new place won't have the smoke-stained walls. It won't have a bathroom more fit for CBGBs than a place that you would associate with Minnesota. There probably won't be a kitchen the size of a postage stamp, with exasperated cooks throwing up plates of greasy goodness. A new venue won't have a split layout where someone could take a break from the band and have a conversation around a circle bar. The colorful old neighborhood regulars might not gravitate to a new clean watering hole, eschewing it for another place that is old and familiar.
But there is one thing about a new place that gives me hope. It is the people. I'm not referring to the patrons, although that is one thing that made the Uptown what it was. No. I'm talking about the servers, bartenders, doormen and managers. They were the pulse of the place. If they come along with any new location then not only will the new incarnation of the Uptown survive but I feel it will thrive.
Sure, it was the bands that most often made me go to the place, but the staff was what made it more wonderful. I even enjoyed the cantankerous ones, for they colored the atmosphere with a punk vibe that made me feel at home (large Catholic family). With all the great bands that played the Uptown there was one undeniable fact, and that was the place was a great bar! And all great bars are defined by the people who pour your drink or place the plate of food in front of you or make sure you pay a cover or engineer a great sound.