Warehouse Bar, 1984

July 27, 1984

Butch Curran, owner of the Warehouse Bar, stands in the newly opened dance area attached to the bar and grill on July 23, 1984. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

It’s cool down at the Warehouse

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer

The surprise hit of this year’s Grandma’s Marathon weekend was the Warehouse.

Locals among the multitudes at Canal Park were surprised to hear live music pulsing from the big brick garage at 408 S. First Ave. E. It looked less like a nightclub than like the 67-year-old former ice house it is.

But some 500 people crammed in to hear reggae-calypso kings Shangoya the night of race day. The funky brick-and-ventilator look was a perfect setting. Long beerhall-style tables imparted a vaguely Germanic feel, as if one was catching the Beatles at the Star Club in Hamburg. Two huge freight doors were opened to let cool breezes in and attract onlookers, who were kept out by snow fencing. There was an exciting street dance feel.

Co-owner Butch Curran has decided to try offering live music on a regular basis. He had local blues purveyors The Wingtips last Friday night and Twin Cities rockers the Flamin’ Oh’s on Saturday. The Oh’s drew 300, even with a $3 cover charge and lots of free music outside at the Fog Fest.

Tonight it’s the Wingtips again, with Shangoya back on Saturday.

“We’ll try it at least through summer and fall,” Curran said. He plans to use more local bands when UMD resumes classes. The music area is adjacent to the Warehouse Bar, which is nearly three years old. Curran may give the new area its own name soon and is considering The Terminal. Entrance will still be through the Warehouse, he said.

Local club owners have been getting away from live music with depressing regularity the last couple of years. So why did Curran and his mostly silent partner Dick Hicks get into it?

“I saw some statistics the Marine Museum had on the number of people who come down into this area in the summer,” Curran said. “And I had the space. All I was using it for was storage.”

Vending wagons are parked near the entrance to the Warehouse Bar on Aug. 6, 1986, after being moved from Burger King next door in Canal Park. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Curran brought in Charlie Sobczak, a local music promoter formerly with the Norshor Theater, to choose which acts to offer.

“I initially said, ‘Let’s try something outdoors,’ ” Sobczak said. “Butch said, ‘I know June too well.’ ”

The hall is a cavern-like 106 feet long and 45 feet wide, with a 23-foot-high ceiling. The walls still are dotted with a few chunks of the 5-inch-thick cork that used to insulate the ice blocks against summer heat. Large elevated areas on either end would make fine balconies. There’s plenty of room for a stage, two bars and a dressing room, should Curran’s plans go that far.

“We’re trying to decide now how much we should do,” he said. “Some people have told us that the crudeness of it is good.”

— end —

I don’t have any more information about the Warehouse Bar, other than I know a lot of people remember it. Do you know when it closed? Share your memories by posting a comment.

16 Responses

  1. Rob O.

    The Replacements with The Magnolias – 2/21/86

    Soul Asylum with The Magnolias – 7/12/86

    Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run and The Blue Hippo’s – 10/17/86

    Brought to you by “Snowflake Promo”

  2. Roger Johnson

    The original Club Saratoga’s kitchen moved to the Warehouse bar when the Saratoga was razed and moved to it’s present location. They had great breakfasts and lunches (hot beef sandwiches /with mashed potatoes) when I worked at RMS.

  3. Thunder lips

    The Warehouse was closed in late spring 1992, not 1989 as someone said in an earlier post. The bar was closed due to a number of factors. Land owners and speculators and The City of Duluth were starting to invest a lot of money into Canal Park and Curren’s land became very valuable. And frankly, it was an eyesore. Coincidentally, (cough cough) Duluth police stepped up their raids on the bar at this time and Curren’s establishment was cited several times for serving minors. He may have even lost his license – I can’t remember because was often drinking at the time.

    It was quite the happening place on Mondays for $.25 beer night and the evening of home hockey games. Bulldogs and their opponents gathered to tip back drinks. Oh, the stories that bar could tell.

  4. Gary B

    I LOVED the Warehouse! I remember seeing “The Back Doors” (Doors tribute band) there and a Rolling Stones tribute band, too. Brett Hull was seen there MANY times and I even shot a game of pool with him once. NICE GUY!!! I also remember peanut shells everywhere. The Warehouse sign is now in the (Sports) Garden. Duluth was a pretty cool place at one time………too bad it’s a dump now.

    1. Andrew

      I believe – and as before, someone please correct me if I’m wrong – that Warehouse Bar owner Butch Curran was Brett Hull’s father-in-law at one time.

      1. Mary Johnston

        That is true. Butch was Brett’s father-in-law at one time. His daughter was married to him & they have children together also.

  5. Katie

    It closed in the Fall of 1989 as I was a freshman and didn’t work up the nerve to try to get in underage (which ironically was the reason for it’s demise). My husband says it was a big Coast Guard hang out and oddly enough was a popular breakfast spot.

  6. llinmpls

    The Warehouse had a nice run, all the big bands from the Twin Cities cames through there. I remember it being the last building next to Burger King.

  7. Tami

    I remember quarter beer nights like it was yesterday! The Warehouse was the BEST! There’s nothing like walking into a bar where people are crowded body to body as each person tried to keep their beer inside their plastic cups. Inevitably, the beer spilled…and spilled..and spilled. And for a quarter, who cared! Get another! Spill some more! The floors were a veritable pool of beer. It was the live music, however, that attracted me to the Warehouse.

  8. Jack

    I remember in high school (class of ’85) the Warehouse used to have 25 cent tap beers on Mondays I think!

  9. Nick

    Where would this be located present day? Was 1st Ave E in Canal renamed when the whole Canal Park area was re-done and made more tourist friendly?

    1. Andrew

      First Avenue East is now Canal Park Drive. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the building (no longer there) was where the Comfort Suites now is located – across from Little Angie’s Cantina.

    2. Al Johnson

      Correct. It was just next door north of burger king on that same side of street. When I used to go there in the mid 80’s, that burger king used to be the “Canal Park Inn” restaurant. Man, do I have some fond memories of the old Warehouse days! And yeah, the quarter tap nights 🙂

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