19 Bar, a Minneapolis gay bar open since the 1950s, closes after crash sparks fire

A bar in minneapolis-3
19 Bar in Minneapolis suffered a fire on Friday.
Kaila White | MPR News

Updated March 27, 1:30 p.m. | Posted March 26, 5:12 p.m.

Minneapolis’ 19 Bar is shuttered after a fire burned through the building on Friday. 

The popular gay bar has stood at West 15th Street since the 1950s. It calls itself one of the oldest operating gay bars in the United States. 

The fire started when a garbage truck hit a nearby utility pole, according to the Minneapolis Fire Department. Electrical wires fell on the building’s gas supply. There were no injuries reported.

The bar wrote in a Facebook post that it’s closed until further notice.

“We will have to face this challenge one day at a time and will update as needed,” the post reads.

News of the fire quickly prompted an outpouring of support. Two online fundraisers have raised a combined total of more than $28,000 for the bar’s employees, who fundraiser organizers say are out of work while the bar is closed. 

Bubba Thurn is the secretary for the Citizens for a Loring Park Community, and they work with the annual pride festival. They’re also a regular at the 19. As soon as they heard about the fire, they got in touch with the bar’s management and set up a fundraiser.

More bars and local organizations have offered to help, too. The Saloon, a nearby gay bar, announced a fundraiser for the 19 on April 7.

”The community is reaching out with whatever resources they have, which is absolutely wonderful,” Thurn said.

Thurn called the fire a big loss for the queer community. The 19 is unique, they said. It still has a much-loved jukebox, dart boards, pool tables, and a cash-only bar. It’s long been a touchstone of annual pride celebrations.

”It never changes,” Thurn said. “It doesn’t have the attitude of the regular clubs and gay bars. This one is more of a mix of the community — the neighborhood of Loring Park and the queer community as a whole.”

Photos from inside the building, posted by fundraiser organizers, show collapsed signage over the bar and damage to the interior.

Thurn said the bar’s management is still assessing the damage and planning its rebuilding process.

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