In snooping around our electronic archives for information about some of Duluth’s old supper clubs, I was struck by how many people’s obituaries told of their working at such establishments as the London House, the Highland Supper Club, the Flame and Black Bear Lounge. Not to impugn any of Duluth’s current eateries, but it is hard to imagine people feeling that same sense of belonging at one of today’s fast-food places or chain restaurants.
Tin Pan Alley troupe performs at the London House. Undated News Tribune photo
This undated photo of the “Tin Pan Alley” entertainment troupe at the London House, site of the present-day Perkins on London Road, certainly reflects different times.
Tracking changes through the years at the Highland Supper Club on Miller Hill Highway reflects the changing tastes of restaurant-goers over time.
An April 1972 Duluth Herald clipping reports that the Highland was included in an issue of Ford Times, a publication of Ford Motor Co. The “Favorite Recipes from Famous Restaurants” column included the Highland’s recipes for Lobster O’Brien and Prima Granda King Shrimp.
Ownership of the supper club turned over a few times, with Hope Lindman of Hopkins, Minn., planning to purchase it in a September 1970 article, “dependent upon the approval of transfer of [the] liquor license.” In 1979, another owner, Howard Guckenberg, was reported to be planning to add a new kitchen on to the building.
The article says, “The Guckenbergs said all new cooking equipment will be stainless steel and will include several computer-controlled pieces.”
By May 1983, the Guckenbergs were complaining of years of financial losses, with more plans to remodel and upgrade the facility. The Guckenbergs were negotiating with restaurateur David Cornelson of Minneapolis, who planned to open a new restaurant at the facility, filling “an open niche in the Duluth market between fast-food restaurants and supper clubs,” according to the story by reporter Jack D. Shipley.
Shipley continues: “The Highland was one of the city’s premier supper clubs for more than a decade. But a boom during the 1970s in restaurant development left the Highland suffering, Guckenberg said.”
In September 1983, former employees of the Highland were picketing the restaurant to get their old jobs back when it reopened under the name Neon Parrot. The employees were members of Hotel, Motel, Restaurant, Bar and Club Local 99.
The Neon Parrot on MIller Trunk Highway September 1984 News-Tribune photo by Bob King
The Neon Parrot operated at the site for awhile, as well as Rudolph’s Barbecue. By 1993, the old supper club had been reincarnated as “The White Elephant Bar and Lounge,” and the building was being purchased by yet another owner, the Duluth law firm of Orman & Nord, which was moving its offices to the building. The new owners planned to continue to lease the bar space, while making vacant space at the building available as office space for professional tenants. The law firm, now named Orman Nord Spott & Hurd Attorneys, remains in the building at 1301 Miller Trunk Highway today.
– Mary Beamish, copy editor