Reporting Matt Brickman
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — It may be a geographical anomaly, but Minnesotans love their country music.
Now, a local club is being recognized as one of the nation’s best. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park is a nominee for an Academy of Country Music Award as Nightclub of the Year.
“You don’t think of that in Minnesota. You think of that in Oklahoma, in the south,” said Denise Emge, over lunch at Toby Keith’s.
“I think it’s kind of crazy. I don’t know a lot of cowboys here,” said Deb Gagnon, another Toby Keith’s patron.
Even the bar’s General Manager, Matt Sutton, said he didn’t see this coming.
“I logged on to our Facebook page this morning, like I always do and then we actually saw the nomination. That’s a good thing to wake up to this morning, that’s for sure,” said Sutton.
The nomination is no mistake. The bar draws national acts like Uncle Cracker and Thompson Square, and country music fans come out in droves. The St. Louis Park bar and grill is among five other nominees, including Billy Bob’s Texas (Fort Worth, Texas), Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace (Bakersfield, CA), Grizzly Rose (Denver, CO) and Wormy Dog (Oklahoma City, OK).
“It’s crazy,” said Darren Benoit, a country music fan who has seen a few shows at the bar. “I’ve been here on a Tuesday night and the place is wall to wall all the way back to the door.”
So while the image of the suburban cowboy might take some getting used to, St. Louis Park is suddenly a hot bed of honky-tonk.
“It is a little bit strange to see people walking in with a cowboy hat,” said Benoit.
The guys at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill are already making plans on what to do it if they win.
“I’m pretty excited about it to be honest with you,” said Sutton. “If we got it, I would definitely post it in the front door and make sure we show it off to everybody too.”
You can watch the Academy of Country Music Awards at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 1 on WCCO-TV Channel 4.