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Minneapolis' historic 19 Bar honored by LGBTQ+ community, Walker Art Center after devastating fire

Community pitches in to support The 19 Bar after devastating fire
Community pitches in to support The 19 Bar after devastating fire 02:36

MINNEAPOLIS — An anchor of the LGBTQ+ community and Loring Park neighborhood in Minneapolis is getting a wealth of support after a devastating fire.

Nearly a week ago, 19 Bar was badly damaged after a garbage truck hit a power pole that landed on the building, sparking flames.

No one was hurt, but the loss is hitting the queer community hard.

"It's just so weird not having that place to go to on the way home from work," said Bubba Thurn, a regular customer and friend of the staff at 19 Bar. 

Eight workers there are now without a job after the fire. The bar opened in the 1950s and is the oldest gay bar in the state, if not the region.

"You always expect it to be there. When you come to the Pride Festival every year, you expect to at least run into your friends if you moved away from the neighborhood at the 19 Bar," said Thurn.

Sharing in that sadness has been tough, especially when their preferred gathering spot is what was lost.

But just down the street at the Walker Art Center, a colorful opportunity awaits.

"We just started brainstorming about what can we do? And so we came up with the idea to celebrate the 19 Bar tonight," said Rachel Joyce, associate director of public relations at the Walker.

Coincidentally, there's an exhibit at the Walker paying homage to the New Eagle Creek Saloon, the first Black-owned gay bar in San Francisco. 

Events are held there weekly. Joyce said the artist, Sadie Barnette, was more than happy to welcome people into the space to honor 19 Bar.

Photos submitted by its customers will be projected across the wall as bartenders and a DJ curate the atmosphere people now miss.

"I am really hoping that it's a joyful moment to reminisce on good times at the 19 Bar and a way to look towards the future," said Joyce, adding that staff at the Walker frequent 19 Bar.

"I'll be there and of course the 19 staff will be there," said Thurn. "It will be nice to reconnect with a lot of people, too."

In the meantime, two online fundraisers have raised nearly $30,000 combined to help the out-of-work staff make ends meet.

"I'm very proud of the queer and Loring Park community," Thurn said. 

In talking with the bar's owners, Thurn said they are eager to eventually reopen the bar. It's unclear if that will be possible by the time Pride Festival happens in late June.

"As the years go on, we still have struggles, challenges in the community. And the 19 Bar has always been a safe haven for people to come and be themselves and be okay," said Craig Wilson, manager at the 19 Bar. "Yes, there's some fire damage, water damage, but that's cosmetic that can be replaced. The bones of the bar is still standing and strong. That just goes to show we will come back, rebuild, new and improved."

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