WORDS BY CHRIS STROUTH
Bev’s Wine Bar, the last hideaway of civil civilization, is closing its doors and never opening them again. It’s another death as what we knew of an arts district continues to morph into a final descent into luxury living and sitcom-style lofts.
The only bar standing from an era where downtown Minneapolis was more than just a collection of dusty rose buildings and abandoned storefronts—a destination. A big, glowing light that beckoned wide and far: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to paint like Andy Warhol and David Hockney.” The wretched writers retelling Bukowski lore: “Send these, the homeless, tempest in teapots to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” and then slam it squarely in their face like a cartoon door-to-door salesman. Art is a cruel mistress and a mean son of a bitch that can never love you as much as you may love it.
This small sliver of downtown, bordered by Hennepin and westward for a few scant blocks, was a Little Amsterdam, minus the space cakes and prostitutes…well space cakes at least for artists, writers, and other people with liberal arts degrees. When warehouses didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars of stone countertops—unless, of course, that’s where the companies housed their wares. They were artist “studios,” with hidden makeshift bed stays, always a step ahead of the inspector man. Artists, true artists, who thought art might change the world and not just look pretty in a living room—and maybe it did for a time. A place where boho met high snobiety; the highbrow and the Lowenbrau mingling over a moderately priced drink talking about anything and everything, building relationships that would last lifetimes and go on to be cultural references for generations that aren’t in the picture yet. They were places that practiced the rare and maybe lost art of talking to strangers, a time-honored tradition that now violates the laws of personal space and time.
There were other watering holes that met the crossroad of artists, musicians, day traders, and junkies: Once upon a time it was the New French, but that was urgently shut down so it could become an empty building, because there was a shortage. It is now celebrating its 21st birthday of being a wall that drunks leaving nearby strip joints can leisurely piss upon. For a minute, it may have been the Loring…but that’s a chapter best kept closed. Bev’s stood, for 28 years, a wine bar. Not flashy. No bright neon, or heavy signage to speak of, no line of soon-to-be Insta superstars standing in line for the to-die-for kimchi quinoa papaya lobster bowl. In fact, a complete absence of dudebros except for the occasional who stopped in for a quick one as a pit stop from pick-up joint to pick-up joint. Bev’s was well-curated simplicity at its finest: baguettes, Caesar salad, chocolate cake, and, before the plague, a perfect little flatbread. A sublime wine list, a half-dozen beers, and a handful of cocktails, including the last old fashioned that was actually old fashioned and not a kicky remix.
Those who know it will forever mourn the loss of Bev’s: It was a great bar, the kind of bar every great city in the world has, or had.
We aren’t in that world anymore. While we might not always like it, we don’t own that house anymore. The new tenants can do with it what they like, and it doesn’t matter if we like it, too. Thing is, that next owner doesn’t know what they missed, so they never miss it. But I will, and if you were there, you will too. I will leave you with this thought, oh dear and gentle reader: The only reason great things exist is that people decide to build great things, and great things are rarely easy and are almost never, ever practical.