Historic Minneapolis gay bar, a decades-long safe haven, expected to reopen after fire

19 Bar damaged by fire

19 Bar damaged by fire

A day after a fire officials believe a power line knocked down by a garbage truck started a fire at The 19 Bar in Minneapolis’s Loring Park, long-time patrons “were in shock.”

Those were the words of Bubba Thurn with Twin Cities Pride on Saturday. He is also a Loring Park history buff and has been stopping by The 19 Bar on his way home for as long as he’s lived nearby.

“It was devastating for myself and the community members,” Thurn said, describing the bar, “like a second living room to gather with your community.”

The bar was standing long before Thurn became a regular. It became The 19 Bar and a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community in the 1950s, a time when there were none others like it.

“If I’m not mistaken, it is the oldest queer bar in Minnesota and possibly in the midwest at 76 years old,” Thurn said.

On its Facebook page, the bar is labeled “One of the oldest, still-operating GLBT bars in the United States.”

Decades later on Saturday, the doors were closed until further notice at the iconic gay bar and low-key hangout. The lack of windows and pride signage was once a key safety feature for bargoers hoping to remain out of the public eye.

“Back in the day, we had to kind of not be in the public eye,” Thurn said. “So people walking by wouldn’t be able to out, you know, their neighbor or coworker or whatnot. They would have to go in — have a purpose to go in — in order to see what’s going on.”

The windowless building made visibility and ventilation tough for firefighters putting out flames in the basement, first floor and up to the ceiling on Friday.

“We put a hole in the roof in order to help ventilate the building and get the fire under control,” Minneapolis Fire Deputy Chief Rita Juran said at the scene. “This was a challenging fire.”

A staff member in the building at the time of the fire was able to evacuate, and no one was hurt, Deputy Juran reported, adding there was a lot of cleanup work left behind.

The 19 Bar in a post on Facebook confirmed that there were no injuries, adding, “We will have to face this challenge one day at a time and will update as needed.”

Bar owners do plan to re-open the bar when possible, likely in a couple of months. There’s no set date as of this report, but Thurn said there a party is expected to be associated with it.

Thurn also set up a GoFundMe page “to help the staff get by during this difficult time while the bar gets rebuilt.”

Click here for a second GoFundMe also verified by Thurn as a source to help staff get by.