Bye Nye's: Local landmark to close after 65 years

Nye's Polonaise Room
Nye's Polonaise Room, Minneapolis, June 10, 2009.
Geoff Stearns / Creative Commons via Flickr

Updated 6:45 a.m. Tuesday | Posted 6 p.m. Monday

Northeast Minneapolis institution Nye's Polonaise Room is closing its doors next year.

The bar, known for its throwback decor, polka band and piano bar sing-alongs, is going to close at the end of next summer or next fall, said co-owner Rob Jacob.

Nye's, which first opened in 1950, was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire in 2006. Jacob and his brother Tony, who grew up just three blocks away from Nye's, bought the bar in 1999.

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"Over the last six years we've been struggling to keep above water there and we were subsidizing it," Jacob said. "We were trying to keep it going as long as we could, but we just can't do it anymore."

He told Nye's employees the news Monday afternoon.

Jacob said several factors led to the difficult decision — including slowed business, more competition and the expense of keeping the old building running.

"We wanted to close it when it's at the top of its game and we feel now's the time," he said.

From its beginning in 1974, the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band played at Nye's. The group is a fixture every Friday and Saturday night.

Trumpet player Joe Hayden, a 20-year veteran of the polka band, said it will be tough to see Nye's close.

"It's a place that's been there since 1950, so, for it to go away, it's sad. It's like a second home," he said.

Fans are hoping they can still change the owners' minds with a "Save Nye's Polonaise" Facebook page. It had collected more than 1,200 "likes" by Tuesday morning.

A post on the page said, "If we get enough likes, then maybe we can show the owners how much people love Nye's and don't want to see it gone forever."

Star Tribune restaurant critic Rick Nelson said the place preserves a certain era.

"I love the aura of being in that dining room, the Chopin Room, and it had kind of a '60s Vegas quality about it, where you thought maybe Joey Heatherton might be sitting in the booth next to you having a plate of sauerkraut and a kielbasa or something."

He often recommends the place to out-of-town guests, though just for drinks.

"It was really more about going to have an old-style kind of cocktail and listening to a singer or being in that polka room than anything else. Those kinds of memories are really — they last for a really long time — and it's really sad to see a place like this go away."

He also said the longevity of the bar and its employees — some working for more than 40 years at Nye's — is a rarity in the Twin Cities.

Trumpet player Hayden says the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band will try to find another venue and would like to keep playing to the end.

"On the very last night, I would like to be the last band to play on that stage," he said.

Jacob said the building is not yet for sale.