Here’s a good one. I tended bar at Black Forest Inn from 1974 through 1978. The Black, as we called it, was situated on 26th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis. That corner was kind of the “downtown” of the nieghborhood and we drew an amazingly divers clientel. It was near the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, The Chidren’s Theater, Honeywell’s corporate headquarters were near by and on the other side some fifteen blocks away was Kenwood. Plus there was a row of run down mansions close by, some of which were halfway houses. It was a neighborhood that was full of apartment buildings, some low rent and subsidized. I think by Minneapolis standards you’d call it a rough neighborhood, but by say, Brooklyn standards, not so much. So we had fat cats from Kenwood and Honeywell office workers, mumbling coffee drinkers from the halfway houses, art student, artists, theater people and a thriving criminal element. It also drew people from all over the state because at that time there were very few authentic German restaurants in the Twin Cities, and in spite of it’s reputation for Scandanavians, there’s probably more Germans in Minnesota. It was the place to be in South Minneapolis in those days.
When I started working there they only served beer, but then they upgraded their license to beer and wine and then soon after they obtained a full liquor license, each of these milestones was accompanied by an expansion of the bar and restaurant. I have the “honor” of having served the first hard liquor at the Black.
In 1970 Richard Avedon the photographer had a show of his work at the Art Institute, which was near by. At that time, Erich (pronounced Airish in the Bavarian way) the owner of the Black would hang out after closing and drink with some of his buddies, artists and kenwood fat cats. Somehow Avedon ended up in this after hours crowd while he was preparing the show and had such a good time that he gave Erich a huge autographed print of one of his famous pictures. It was about 5′ X 5′ and was a candid shot he’d taken while preparing a formal sitting of some elderly DAR members in evening gowns. It’s a fabulous photo and with the autograph and it’s size must be worth thousands of dollars. I currently hangs to the right of the bar if your on the drinking side, right between the two rest rooms in the little corridor that leads out to the beer garden. Since the early eighties it’s had three bullet holes in it. From a .357 magnum.
The morning after the gun play, Beck and I were reading the article about it in the paper. The shooter was only identified as a “forty year old regular.” I looked at Beck and said, “Has to be Ellis.” Later in the day we ran into Bear, who was bartending at the time. He confirmed that it had indeed been Ellis. Ellis was what I considered a harmless but annoying wierdo, the kind you often find in bars. He would sit at the bar and ramble on and on about his military experience, his duty in Nam (turns out he was never there) and other crap. He bothered the customers, and occasionally got into fights in which he invariably got his ass kicked. It turns out that the night before he had been in fine form and had been thrown out by Erich himself, told to never come back. He’d been told this countless times before, a couple of times by me. So he walks in during the lunch rush, when the place is full of business people, sits down at the bar, pulls out the cannon and blast three shots into the Daughters of the American Revolution. The area by the bar is very enclosed, by a wall on one side and a massive wooden canopy above the bar. I can’t imagine how loud it must have been. I’m sure everyone present had major hearing damage. Thank god no one in the bathroom was hit. Can you imagine sitting there squeezing out a fat one and seeing three slugs rip through the wall and lodge in the plaster on the far side? He did shoot at an upward trajectory, he was harmless, but really craved attention. Needless to say he got it. So, to this day, you can see the Avedon print with the three bullet holes on 26th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis. Don’t miss it if you’re ever in town. The Wienerschnitzel’s pretty damn good too.

12 thoughts on “

  1. Man, that’s kind of a scary experience.  I had a similar experience while working at Busch Gardens once.  Only I was drawing someone….and they were drunk….and singing….and there was no gun….or bathroom… but OTHER than that, EXACTLY THE SAME. 

    and thank you for the remarks

  2. There is in a bar in Laramie Wyoming with a similiar story, but to have actually worked there is awesome.  You do have some great stories.

  3. Whoops, I saw the words ‘Strudel & Nudel’ And I focused on Nude and had to keep scouring the site until, alas, I came up empty handed.  So to speak.

  4. YIKES!! 
    I’ve only been to the Twin Cities once (1988), and the closest I got to a bar was the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, and that doesn’t really count, does it?

  5. Ah, working as a bartender for a few years will give you more stories and life experience than four years of college. It’s sort of like college for the real world. In my case, I combined them.

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