NORTH ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A few nights from now, many of us will raise a glass and toast the arrival of 2014. Few places in Minnesota have welcomed as many new years as a bar in North St. Paul.
Neumann’s Bar, open since 1887, claims to be Minnesota’s oldest, because it kept serving booze even during Prohibition. Gangster stories are part of its legend.
These days, Neumann’s is a neighborhood hangout that attracts everyone from bikers to business people.
The wooden bar they belly up to and the rugged floors they walk across are the same ones that greeted cowboys in the 1880s when Neumann’s served its first drinks.
“This is the oldest bar with the oldest fixtures in the state of Minnesota,” said longtime bar manager Frank Kohler.
It was the Hamm’s Brewing Company that opened Neumann’s, as a spot to serve Hamm’s beer. It’s still going, 126 years later.
“Where do you find a bar that looks like this,” customer Toni Scandale said.
It’s a bar that celebrates its colorful history, even the years when things were a little shady.
Neumann’s ran a speakeasy on the second floor during Prohibition, only for those who checked out. A worker on the ground floor would phone upstairs when someone was being sent up.
“It was mostly gangsters and high-ranking officials,” Kohler said. “And who knows, maybe the mayor and governor or something.”
It’s why local filmmakers used Neumann’s to shoot part of the movie “Gangsterland” in 2010.
The names of those real-life characters are still carved in the spool tables upstairs.
Over the past century, Neumann’s has added things like electricity and plumbing, but kept the original tin ceiling and the woodwork.
“It’s all like the original cabinets,” said bartender Marissa Marple. “Like this one’s broken but the handles are so old and they’re so classic and they take a lot of pride in the fact that this is an original building, and this is what we have, so we never replaced them.”
On any given night, you’ll find customers whose parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents drank here.
“It’s our gathering place,” customer Jerry Quinn said. “It’s a place we can come and we know everybody here.”
“This really is the hometown bar for North St. Paul,” Kohler said.
A few other bars claim they’re the oldest in Minnesota, but since Neumann’s never closed during Prohibition, they believe that title is theirs.
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