Historic North Loop

Loop Back: From Saloon Spittoons To Craft Cocktails

It was just after the turn of the 20th century, 1901, when a German immigrant named Louis Cussler began construction of a two-story saloon/boarding house at 119 Washington Avenue North which he named The Bismarck (perhaps after the long-serving German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck?).

The only beer served here was from a German-American brewer, Gluek, which provided most of the signage outside the building. But in the photo below, you can also see smaller signs on the sides that reference “The Bismarck” and “Louis Cussler, proprietor.”

Photo courtesy: Hennepin County Library

The building was designed by prominent architect Christopher Boehme, who gave it Renaissance Revival features such as rounded arches in the ceiling and classic columns behind the bar.

Photo courtesy: Hennepin County Library

Historic photos show spittoons by the tables and bar, where tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking customers could try to aim their spit.  Perhaps white tile wasn’t the best choice by the bar.

Upstairs on the second level were several low-cost rental units where some of the bartenders were registered as tenants.

Prohibition forced Cussler into retirement in 1920, but the building would still have a future as a fun place for food and drink. Many still remember Waters Bar and Restaurant which opened in 1987.

That was followed by an Irish pub, Mollie Malone’s, in 1993 from Kieran Folliard. Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, father of future senator Amy Klobuchar, wrote about visiting the pub during a soccer match between Ireland and Northern Ireland–toward the end of a tense and violent few decades between the two areas.

In 2001, as more people were finding their way to this part of the Warehouse District, Cafe Havana took over the space, with Cuban-American cuisine, mojitos and cigars (indoor smoking hadn’t yet been banned here). A Star Tribune columnist wrote, “If the Twin Cities held a beauty contest for bars, Havana would easily make it into the top five contestants.”

The next era for the building was 2010-17 when Haute Dish offered elevated comfort food (most notably fancy takes on tater tot hotdish) from chef Landon Schoenfeld.

In the fall of 2023, Stefan Van Voorst brought the building back to life with a craft cocktail bar, Public Domain, which also offered Caribbean-inspired small plates.

We have many more pages of neighborhood history in our Historic North Loop section.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer

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