MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The pie-sliced bar, lovingly called the Otter Saloon has been on a corner of Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis for more than 120 years. And in that time, it’s always been a bar.
“The building was built in 1896,” current owner Bob Vashro said. “During prohibition they didn’t sell liquor, but then they came back.”
It’s the kind of place where you can become a regular, like Randy Adamczak.
“That’s my little girl Missy,” Adamczak said of his pet ferret perched on his shoulder. Missy is the official mascot and an unofficial otter.
But what keeps people coming back night after night, is the chance to sing karaoke, seven days a week.
“They come in here to entertain themselves and each other. In fact, we don’t even have singing contests here at Otter Saloon because it’s just about having a good time,” karaoke host Casey Moo said. “It doesn’t take a dog gone thing [to be good at karaoke]. Just know how to hold the microphone. And talk into the microphone.”
With thousands of songs to choose from, grabbing the mic is hard to resist. You could hear a crowd favorite like Bohemian Rhapsody or a throwback like the Joker.
“Even the slow nights, there’s a set group of regulars that know it’s their night out,” Lynn Vashro said. “They come here to sing. So they all know each other.”
Surely that’s when owners Bob and Lynn belt out their favorites?
“No, I never have. Never. 17 years, I’ve never sang,” Bob said. “I’ve seen over all these years that it takes a while for people to get up and sing. And once they do, they come back because they think they’re a rock star.
“And a few drinks help,” Lynn added.
That’s because karaoke is one of those great equalizers.
“Folks that would not speak to each other outside a place like this, hang out and buy each other drinks here and have great comradery,” Moo said.
“We all think of each other as family,” Bob said. “Even if you don’t sing, if you come here, you’re going to have a good time no matter what.”