By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An early morning fire has destroyed an iconic bar in downtown Saint Cloud.

Firefighters were called to the Press Bar and Parlor at the corner of 5th Avenue and St Germain Street around 2:40 this morning — and they’ve been on scene ever since.

The call came in about 40 minutes after employees left for the night.

The fire spread so quickly it really became more about keeping the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings — including Cowboy Jack’s, which shares a wall with the Press Bar.

People living in apartments above Cowboy Jack’s called the fire in and they too had to be evacuated.

“It was so hot and so smoky our crews couldn’t see beyond the reach of their hands,” St. Cloud Fire Chief Jerry Raymond said.

It didn’t take firefighters long to determine that the fire started in the basement. It also didn’t take them long to see that the historic Press Bar was in trouble.

With no sprinkler system, flames spread through the walls and open spaces and forced crews to play defense for neighboring buildings.

“Only way to get to it was tearing walls down, tearing ceilings down,” Chief Raymond said.

And as they did, employees past and present gathered to watch. Including bartender Isabelle Reischl.

“People loved it. They had fun there,” Reischl said. “I’m very upset. I love my job. I’m going to miss it. It’s sad.”

“I would say it’s an icon. There are a lot of college students who think about it as a place to go every weekend,” Kern Anderson said. “There was still the original cobblestone from 1841.”

Anderson was a longtime bartender and manager at the Press. He says the bar was a staple for historic pub crawls — one of the oldest buildings in St. Cloud, it’s legacy extends beyond music and nightlife.

“First church service was held there, a lot of firsts for that building,” Anderson added. “I know a bunch of people that met their wives there.”

Which makes it hard for many to watch it go. It’s historic value is only matched by its sentimental value.

John Lauritsen

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