What’s Up Lounge closes in Mankato; blast destroys house near Bemidji

Popular Mankato music bar The What’s Up Lounge closed after a series of fines were levied by the city.

Popular Mankato music bar The What’s Up Lounge has closed, reports Mark Fischenich of the Mankato Free Press. At issue is a series of steep penalties levied against the owners after several crimes there and at its sister bar, the Oleander Saloon, which will remain open while the owners, Casey Burns and Ian Nelson, try to sell the establishment. After several problems with gunfights and drunks, Mankato suspended the bar’s liquor license for four days and assessed a $2,000 civil penalty. The Oleander occupies the first floor and the What’s Up performance space was on the second floor. “Music at the What’s Up Lounge started as an open-mic folk event in 1991 that attracted such a wide following that the then-owners of the business began to book other bands and expand the live music offerings. The establishment is widely credited with sparking the renewed vitality of the Mankato music scene, eventually hosting nationally known performers such as Slim Dunlap and The Meat Puppets as well as scores of local acts,” writes Fischenich.

A residence southwest of Bemidji blew up Monday night, reports Crystal Dey of the Bemidji Pioneer. Multiple callers reported the sound of an explosion starting at about 5:35 p.m. Some reported windows rattling and a force strong enough to dislodge pictures from walls. The Beltrami County sheriff said one person was injured and taken by ambulance to an area hospital. After the fire was extinguished, one firefighter described what was left as a “field of debris.”

Go into a bar and ask the people there if they would like free beer. The answer is obvious, and so too was the result when Jenae Hackensmith and Sarah Stultz of the Austin Herald asked students at Riverland Community College in Austin if they liked President Barack Obama’s plan to offer community college at no cost. “I think that’s a good idea,” said Erin Byron, a 49-year-old nursing student. She said many students in her hometown of Waseca live on a farm or are from single-parent homes and their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. Jacob Herold, 19, is in his first year at RCC and is already $4,000 in debt to student loans, even though he has a package of scholarships. Franco Ortiz, who is studying industrial maintenance with hopes to eventually be an engineer, said he has a few friends who went to work at factories because they couldn’t afford college.

It’s official: Teens in North Dakota have clearer consciousnesses than teens in Minnesota. How else to explain the findings of a report that shows the Peace Gardeners sleep later than any other teens in the nation (except those in Washington, D.C.)? Grace Lyden of the Fargo Forum writes that the app Sleep Cycle was used by teens between Sept. 1 and Nov. 13. North Dakota teens, who wake up at 7:12 a.m. on average, rise 17 minutes later than the national average and 19 minutes later than the Minnesota average. They get 10 minutes more sleep than the average teen, who sleeps 7 hours 8 minutes. Minnesota teens sleep 7 hours 11 minutes a night, the study said. Amanda Parmer, a PR person for Sleep Cycle, says kids wake up when they have to go to school and many high schools in North Dakota start after 8 a.m. North Dakota teens go to bed later than the national average: 11:45 p.m. compared to 11:38 p.m. nationally and 11:31 p.m. in Minnesota. 

Good news! The Minnesota National Guard won’t be deploying to Liberia to fight the Ebola virus outbreak after all. Brad Phenow of the Faribault Daily News reports that soldiers from the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division had received orders to support Operation United Assistance, but the Guard issued a statement that said the infantry division wasn’t needed. The Guard originally announced that nearly 700 members of the 34th Red Bull would be deployed to Liberia for a six-month period to coordinate operations, logistics, personnel and resources. That number was later reduced to about 300. Now it’s down to zero.

Warm January temperatures are great, right? Not if you’re driving on the ice. The West Central Tribune in Willmar reports four cars dropped into lakes in Cass County over the weekend. No serious injuries were reported. During years with normal snowfall, plowed roads on the ice help keep motorists away from vulnerable areas, the newspaper said, but with limited snow this season motorists are driving freely on the ice and encountering ice heaves, rivers and springs.

Here are three stories from the Austin Daily Herald to bum you out:

Luke Dale Freland, 32, of Austin, pleaded not guilty in December to six charges including second-degree assault, terroristic threats, malicious punishment of a child and domestic assault. He also more recently stands accused of trying to pressure his victims to help get him out of jail, which breaks a no-contact order. According to a court complaint, Freland and the adult victim were arguing when Freland allegedly pushed or pinched the infant’s throat to get him to stop crying. Later, Freland allegedly threw the woman to the floor, grabbed her throat, covered her mouth and threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop crying. He allegedly dragged the victim upstairs by her hair and prevented her from seeking help. He then took the victim’s cell phone and left the house, at which time the victim reported the incident to police. Staff at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin noted multiple bruises on the infant’s arms, legs, body, sides and abdomen. They took the baby to Mayo Clinic Rochester where a CT scan revealed the infant’s fifth and sixth ribs were fractured in what they classified as “non-accidental trauma.”

An Austin man facing multiple gun-related charges pleaded not guilty Thursday for child pornography-related crimes. Thavinh Kullavongsa, 32, and his brother Phouminh Kullavongsa, 34, were arrested Dec. 18 after witnesses reported gunshots coming from the basement of an apartment home. Police found four guns in their home: a Kahr .45-caliber pistol, ATI .22-caliber pistol, Glock 9mm pistol and a New England Arms 12-gauge shotgun. Two glass methamphetamine pipes, a scale, some fireworks and about 402 grams of marijuana were also found. Later, a worker who was hired to clean the apartment turned on a desktop computer in Thavinh’s room and found images of young girls. Deputies took the desktop computer, a laptop, five hard drives, and various memory cards into evidence and found one folder with 23 videos and another with 33 videos of child pornography

An Ellendale man convicted last fall of setting fire to his family home to collect on insurance money was sentenced to nearly five years in prison Wednesday. Mark Allan Misgen, 43, received a sentence of 58 months on convictions of first-degree arson and insurance fraud. He was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $20,000. Misgen’s attorney argued that the defendant doesn’t have a history of arson and has cooperated with investigations. The prosecuting attorney countered that Misgen hasn’t shown remorse, and that he committed the arson while on probation for a previous felony charge of receiving stolen property while other charges related to credit card fraud had been converted to a lower offense.

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