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Minneapolis committee rejects demolition request for 1903 Gluek saloon

The developer instead was told to move the Cedar-Riverside building.

Gluek company saloons were a common sight in Minneapolis at the turn of the last century.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

The developer who wants to tear down a saloon built in 1903 by Gluek Brewing Co. in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood was told Monday to move the building instead.

Developer Bianca Fine told members of the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee that she does not think the old building is historic. Re-designing the planned 259-unit apartment complex to keep the old saloon there is “unfeasible,” she said.

“We have tried our best to meet the needs of the area,” Fine told council members as she appealed the decision of the Heritage Preservation Commission, which denied her application to demolish the saloon (PDF).

“It’s a quality example of a company saloon,” said Aaron Hanauer, senior city planner for the commission. There were at least 86 saloons built by Gluek Brewing in Minneapolis by 1908, but today nobody has a complete list of all of the locations and which ones remain, he said.

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The saloon, built with the main floor as a taproom, has an apartment upstairs for the saloon manager.  The exterior has decorative brickwork and the taproom contains the original tile floor.  The first floor was converted to residential use in 1992.

The area also has a saloon built by the John Gund Brewing Co., just across the street, and another built by the Minneapolis Brewing Co. a few blocks away.

Fine’s company, Fine Associates, and Currie Park Developments are working together to build the six-story Currie Park Lofts that will occupy nearly two city blocks. The developers have explored the option of moving the saloon from 1500 to 1527 Sixth St. S. onto a lot they currently own.

“It’s extremely expensive,” said Bob Kueppers of Fine Associates. He said building movers have told him the saloon is quite heavy and that moving it will require the removal of trees and the temporary lowering of power lines.  One estimate on moving the building was $300,000.

“Time is becoming an extreme issue,” he told council members, saying the saloon question already has delayed the project three months.

The developer is financing 60 to 70 percent of the project with private funds but also has acquired $1.2 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a federal grant that does not require repayment, and $500,000 in tax increment financing from the city.

The area is a prime location for housing, close to the University of Minnesota to the east and downtown to the west. 

Three community members appeared in support of demolition of the saloon one calling the move to save the building “ludicrous.”

“We do have a number of very historic bar buildings in the area,” said David Markle, who called himself the unofficial historian for the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. “The present building is a resource, but it’s not important.”

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Brewing company saloons were part of the craft beer movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gluek Brewing, established in 1857, focused on producing beer for locals. The company-owned saloons sold only their own brand.

The number of Twin Cities brewery-owned saloons was higher than almost any other urban area. In 1908, there were 394 such saloons, with 38 others owned by individuals.

“This building tells one chapter of our brewing heritage,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, who noted the recent local flourishing of craft beers and the micro-brewing community.

“We’re in a difficult position,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, whose ward includes the proposed building site and the Gluek saloon. “Preserving the building makes sense,” he said, noting neighborhood support for sparing it from demolition.

Committee members denied the demolition request and ordered that the saloon be moved. The developers are required to return to the committee with a site plan for approval.