The Town House Bar, St. Paul’s oldest LGBTQ bar and home to some of the city’s most vibrant drag shows, is getting a new owner, name, and soccer focus: The Black Hart of Saint Paul.
Holly Monnett, the longtime owner of The Town House bar, is selling the business to Wes Burdine, a Midway resident and co-owner of the popular Minnesota soccer website FiftyFive.One. Burdine announced the sale today and expects to close on it in June.
The Town House Bar has been a Midway staple through the decades and countless construction projects, while several other small businesses in the area have closed their doors. The change in ownership will ensure the beloved corner spot won’t turn into condos or a coffee chain anytime soon.
“The Town House right now is the oldest gay bar in St. Paul and has a great longtime clientele,” Burdine says. “I approached Holly about buying it a year-and-a-half ago. In that first conversation, she was really excited because developers kept on approaching her to knock it down and put in a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Given Burdine’s soccer acumen and the site’s proximity to Allianz Field, the future home of Minnesota United FC, The Town House will add a passion for soccer to its list of specialties. But longtime patrons and fans of The Town House need not worry. Besides the name, the number of changes will be limited.
“Black Hart is going to be three things: It’s going to continue the legacy and home of the LGBTQ community in the Twin Cities and have a lot of the drag shows and burlesque shows it has now,” Burdine says. “It will also be a soccer bar. It’s just over a thousand yards from the new stadium and it will be a place for people to gather before and after Minnesota United games or to come watch away games.”
For over 40 years, the owner Holly has maintained the oldest LGBTQ+ bar in Saint Paul and it’s important to me that that doesn’t change. The name will change, the bathrooms will be upgraded, it won’t be cash only anymore, but there will be a lot of drag shows. pic.twitter.com/5bfJSfbeVz
— Wes Burdine (@MnNiceFC) May 14, 2018
And the third thing: “I live in Midway, just a few blocks from the bar, and there aren’t many places where Midway people gather. There’s a few dive bars. So having a place where people can go for happy hour after getting off the light rail. Those are the things I’d like to see this place provide.”
There isn’t yet an exact date when the transition will be made official, but Burdine expects Black Hart to be up and running in time for the start of the World Cup in Russia on June 14.
The changes will be mostly on the operational side, such as installing credit card machines and giving the bathrooms a facelift. The backroom bar, currently being used for karaoke among other things, will still be used as a versatile event space and may also feature a selection of craft cocktails not available at the main bar.
“We want to keep what Town House does really well going and also bring more people in the doors,” Burdine says. “The bar is still going to be an affordable neighborhood bar. Similar to Turf Club, you’ve got two different spaces and you can program them slightly differently.”
If all goes to plan, the corner of University Avenue at Albert Street will continue to be one of the best places in town for drag shows. It will also be a go-to spot to catch a Loons game or watch the World Cup this summer.