Palmer’s Bar in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside is an institution.
Opened in 1906, the bar was owned by Minneapolis Brewing Company as a tied house, and it’s rumored that during Prohibition it operated as a speakeasy with a tunnel connecting Palmer’s to the 5 Corners Saloon (what is now known as the Nomad). In the 1930s, there was a brothel located upstairs.
After changing ownership multiple times over the years, Keith Berg and Lisa Hammer purchased Palmer’s in 2001 (Berg died unexpectedly in 2015 at the age of 56). The dive bar has garnered national recognition from magazines like Esquire, who in 2014 lauded Palmer’s as one of the “Best Bars in America” for its cheap drinks, the “Wall of Shame” listing all the people 86’d from the bar, and the outdoor patio.
Now, there’s a new owner of Palmer’s who hopes to carry on the legacy—though he’s certainly not new to the bar scene. Tony Zaccardi, the Grumpy’s Northeast bartender of 18 years, has been working to purchase the bar from owner Lisa Hammer for the past two months. On Saturday, Zaccardi announced that the sale is moving forward and if all goes to plan he’ll officially be running Palmer’s in the coming months.
The thought to buy Palmer’s from Hammer crossed Zaccardi’s mind two months ago and has consumed his thoughts since. “A mutual friend of ours mentioned it to me that Lisa might be interested in selling, and then I just couldn’t let it go,” he explains.
Zaccardi, who plays bass guitar in bands around the Twin Cities, performed in Palmer’s on multiple occasions, which cemented his love for the bar. “The history that goes along with that place is unparalleled,” says Zaccardi. “I love the diversity of the place. It’s black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor—it’s everything and everybody, and a cross-section of the city.”
“I’m just excited to learn the quirks that come along with the place, and continue to get to know “Spider” John Koerner better—he’s in there everyday, twice a day.” Palmer’s has hosted a number of noted blues musicians, including “Spider” John Koerner, Charlie Parr, Willie Murphy, and Cornbread Harris.
With the history and traditions of Palmer’s running deep, Zaccardi doesn’t plan to make many changes upon taking over. “You can’t really change Palmer’s without alienating everybody. I do not want to be the most hated man in Minneapolis,” he jokes. “The biggest change I foresee happening is that I’m going to start taking credit cards.” Guests also might notice differences in the beer lineup and more live music on the patio, but other than that, it will be the same Palmer’s that people have come to love.
“I think it’s just a great place, a good place to go hanging. Everybody is equal. You can meet a famous musician, no one cares. I think that’s the kind of place a lot of people want to hang out.”