Mar 24, 2021

Axios Twin Cities

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

  • The jury is set for the Derek Chauvin trial. Opening statements begin Monday. Go deeper.

Situational awareness: The state's largest school district agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit from a transgender student who was prohibited from using the boys' locker room. Read more via The Associated Press.

Today's newsletter is 932 words, a 3 1/2-minute read.

1 big thing ... End of an era: Owners won't reopen Liquor Lyle's

Liquor Lyle's has been closed for a year, and now the owners are planning to sell. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Beloved Minneapolis dive bar Liquor Lyle's won't reopen, at least not under its longtime owners.

The state of play: General manager Jeremiah Kline told Nick that the owners, after going back and forth over the past year, have made the decision to sell the Hennepin Avenue institution after nearly 50 years.

  • The ownership group is led by Russell Spence and Ken Meshbesher. A third partner, high-profile attorney Ron Meshbesher, died in 2018 and his stake is owned by his wife, Kim.
  • Kline told Meshbesher and Spence they would lose money if they reopened last year because the business is driven so much by big crowds.
  • The remaining original owners are in their 80s, and Kline said they're likely looking to sell both the real estate and business together.

What they're saying: Kline was coming up on 10 years at Lyle's, including three as GM, when the pandemic hit. He called the decision to sell "bittersweet." He discussed how previous GM and one of the city's first female bartenders, Valorie Soberg, had a mentality that the customer was not always right.

  • "The owners sided with the staff, and they always treated people good," Kline said. "After Val left I tried to keep that mentality."

Down memory lane: The windowless bar, with its red vinyl booths, was a popular hangout for journalists, writers, musicians, actors and comedians.

  • Among its notable customers were Tom Arnold, David Carr, Paul Magers, Vince Flynn, Josh Hartnett and Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, according to an oral history of the bar from 2015 in MinnPost.
  • Bill Lindee, who managed the bar in the 1970s, told MinnPost: "It was a mix of customers in those days: rednecks, run-of-the-mill folks, college folks. A lot of northern Minnesota people liked it — they’d come down and say it reminded them of the bars back home."
  • It remained a melting pot until the end, with its much loved 2-for-1 happy hour, when servers would bring out free pans of chicken wings.
2. Chauvin trial security funding still stuck at Capitol

Barbed wire and barricades in downtown Minneapolis. Photo: David Joles/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A proposal to set aside up to $35 million in state funds for Chauvin trial security appeared all but dead yesterday, with House Speaker Melissa Hortman declaring there is "no realistic path" forward at this time.

  • The Brooklyn Park Democrat said conservatives have no "appetite" for the SAFE Act following news that Minneapolis will get hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus cash.

The other side: Senate GOP leader Paul Gazelka said the speaker "does not speak for the Senate majority caucus," noting they already passed a $20 million version. He didn't address whether stimulus money changes their outlook.

Reality check: Even with GOP support, the bill remains on legislative life support. A number of metro Democrats in the House are opposed over concerns about police accountability.

Of note: A Minneapolis city spokeswoman said officials are awaiting federal guidance on how they can use the stimulus funds. But she said even if they could divert some to the trial, they'd still need more cash to cover the tab.

The bottom line: Nothing is actually dead until the Legislature adjourns— and even then there's a chance with special sessions.

  • But the debate over whether Minneapolis should be reimbursed isn't likely to be resolved soon.
3. The Dayton's Project finally has a tenant

A yet-to-open food hall is the centerpiece of a $214 million renovation of the former Dayton's department store Image: The Dayton's Project

The $214 million overhaul of the former Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis finally has landed an office tenant.

  • Accounting firm Ernst and Young is moving its downtown office into the historic Nicollet Mall building, according to a Minneapolis Downtown Council release.

Why it matters: It's a small piece of good news for a very large project that so far has been extremely slow to lease, even before the pandemic hit.

4. What are these former City Pages staffers up to?

Could a new City Pages be coming? Illustration: Axios Visuals

A new Twitter handle called RacketMN follows just five people, and all of them are former City Pages journalists.

The backdrop: City Pages owner Star Tribune Media Co. shut down the long-running alt-weekly in October, citing declining ad revenue during the pandemic.

The intrigue: Could the former staffers be launching a replacement?

  • Former editor Emily Cassel told Nick she wasn't ready to discuss Racket.
5. New federal push for high-rise sprinklers

Minneapolis firefighters leave a building in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood where a fire broke out on the 14th floor of the building in 2019. Photo: David Joles/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minnesota's U.S. senators are renewing a push for federal funding to prevent a repeat of the deadly Cedar-Riverside high-rise fire, Axios has learned.

  • Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith will announce today that they're reintroducing legislation to create a $25 million grant program to retrofit public housing complexes with sprinkler systems.

The issue: Many older buildings, including Cedar-Riverside, went up before sprinkler mandates. A working system could have prevented the five deaths in the November 2019 blaze.

What they're saying: "This bill gets right to the root of what we need to do: incentivize public housing authorities that want to install sprinkler systems," Smith said in a statement provided to Torey.

Of note: Proposals to require sprinkler retrofitting are working their way through the Minnesota Legislature.

6. Curtain closes on "Cinderella" over "98% white" cast

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A local production of "Cinderella" has been cancelled over concerns about a lack of diversity among the cast.

What's happening: Chanhassen Dinner Theatres scrapped its plans for the Rodgers & Hammerstein show and will perform "Footloose!" in 2022 instead.

  • Artistic director Michael Brindisi told The Pioneer Press the decision came after they realized the cast was "98% white."

What they're saying: "Our hope in beginning the production process again with a new title will allow us to put into practice an intentional process based on the work we have been doing towards equity and inclusivity," the theater said in a statement.

7. Top dogs: The Twin Cities' most popular breeds, listed

Photos: Getty Images

Labs, German shepherds and pit bulls reign supreme as the Twin Cities' most popular dogs.

The ranking: We looked at pet license data from the last two years to get a sense of how various breeds stack up. Here's the top five pup picks in each city:


  1. Labrador retriever
  2. German shepherd
  3. Golden retriever
  4. Pit bull
  5. Chihuahua

St. Paul:

  1. Pit bull
  2. Lab mix
  3. Labrador retriever
  4. Shepherd mix
  5. German shepherd

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