ESB East Side Bar
858 Payne Avenue
St. Paul, MN
“And so the second life of this Eastside landmark began… ”
The structure at 858 Payne Ave. was built by one Magnus Lindgren around 1885. Lindgren apparently owned and operated a saloon here until he was bought out by the Hamm's Brewery in 1903. Magnus continued to live here until 1917, when he fell dead while shoveling snow out front. Along with other breweries in the pre-Prohibition era, Hamm's at that time owned and operated a string of bars, so-called "tied houses," across the city. These bars would offer only Hamm's products. Hamm's, we are told, was responsible for either buying or building the beautiful wooden bar (both front and back) and operated the place up till Prohibition was enacted in 1920.
From 1920-1933, we presume that no alcoholic beverages were consumed here. Not even secretly, with the windows shaded. After Prohibition was finally ended, under the new alcohol laws passed by Congress, Hamm's and other breweries were no longer allowed to own bars. The bar continued in operation, though, being run by one Joseph Rossi. It continued as a "3.2" bar up until 1968, when it closed.
For the next 20 or so years, the building was residential -- imagine living in an apartment with a large, beautiful bar! There was also a time when the building functioned as the headquarters/clubhouse for the Hell's Outcasts, a local biker gang. The Outcasts took great care of the bar as well.
By the 2000s, though, the building was vacant and had fallen into disrepair. Murph Dawkins, a neighbor and community activist, purchased the building and began rehabilitating it, with a plan of opening a neighborhood coffee shop and gathering place called the U&I Cafe. During renovations, she discovered a buried cache of Prohibition-era wine bottles in the basement.
Murph was also responsible for the restoration of the old billboard-type ad painted on the north wall of the building (only visible if you know where to look, but check it out!), and for the beautiful wood inlays in the floor, which represent the history of the building (thus the Hamm's bear!) and the bars in this immediate neighborhood. Murph put lots of blood, sweat, and tears into the building and did her best to restore it with loving care, but unfortunately, she was unable to get her cafe open.
And that's where things stood when Eric happened to drive by and see a For Sale sign on a cool-looking old building. He peered in the window and saw the amazing oak bar; it was love at first sight. And so the second life of this Eastside landmark began…
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