A Nordeast neighborhood bar is one of the few places a man cross-eyed whiskey-drunk will admit to a stranger the single thing that makes him cry his eyes out: The Passion of the Christ. Northeast bars are known for their collection of binge drinkers, so it's not unusual that in the span of two minutes the same man has asked me twice whether I'm a Jew or a Christian, told me three times that I have the hands of a baby, and pummeled me with questions about whether or not I want to have babies. Around here, alcohol-induced short-term memory loss is as common as dollar pull tabs.
What makes this Northeast bar stand out from the rest of the neighborhood joints is that, while babies and Jesus may be the theme of my night, cops are the theme every night here at the 1029 Bar on Marshall Street. Handcuffs dangle from neon beer signs. Minnesota State Patrol patches are displayed on the rafters next to an "I.O.U." promissory napkin for a 40DD bra. And a cop car door riddled with at least 16 bullet holes hangs from a smoke-stained wall. Patrons scrawl cop-themed slogans on the mangled door like it's a bathroom stall: "Come for one, stay till 1:00, we don't go home till we get the job done. You keep servin', we keep protectin'" is the bar's equivalent of "Call Sheila for a good time."
Troy, the co-owner of the 1029 who prefers to be known only on a first-name basis, is tight-lipped about the door's history. "A cop brought it in," he says while washing beer mugs. "It's real." When prodded as to why it's hanging on the wall, Troy is still reticent. "It's a cop bar," he shrugs. "Cops come in here with their partners." Troy and his co-owner brother-in-law worked at the Polish Palace in Northeast, which was also a cop hangout, before buying the 1029 two and a half years ago, and their police patrons followed.
It's hard to avoid the topic of the fuzz when every inch of the decor at the 1029 screams "cop" louder than a tire squeal. A bald guy with a baseball-player goatee asks Troy if he wants to come to a "420 party." Troy looks confused. "You know, a marijuana party...it's police code!" he laughs. Even for a first-timer, the place has a family feel. When the cook hand-delivers my order of chicken wings, a woman I've never met gets up from her seat and brings me salt and pepper. Across the bar, a gray-haired man with a bowl cut and a penchant for cussing--he's called Bubba--sips his drink and offers everyone a Rolo from his candy pack. Feeling cozy, I turn to the man with short-term memory loss and ask who in the room is a heat-packer. He darts his eyes from table to table. "There are a few here...five or six," he says, nodding toward a group of thirtysomething clean-shaven men with crew cuts and baseball caps.
Despite the cop aura that emanates from the 1029 with radar force, a bare-chested man whose muddy T-shirt has either been ripped down the center or been mistaken for a shawl stumbles into the bar with eyelids so heavy they look to be carrying the entire weight of his sweat-soaked forehead. Troy tells the man he won't be served without a shirt or, in this case, while wearing a homemade cape. He stares through tiny slits at Troy and slowly reaches into his jeans pocket, rocking forward and back. He fumbles around in his pocket and finally offers Troy a wad of crumpled bills. Troy shakes his head, and the drunken man stumbles out the door like a marionette tangled in its own wires. There's a collective exhale, and everyone mutters the same thing as if on cue: "I thought he was about to pull out a gun."
Troy says violent incidents never happen at the 1029. "It's more of a family-type bar that's turned into a cop-family bar," he explains. Certainly the officers among us can handle themselves. But Troy is protective of this cop family, and talking about them makes him nervously tug at his Harley-Davidson Police Motorcycles shirt collar. "This is a family," he says, waving his hand about the room. Troy was never on the force, but at the 1029 he protects and serves like an old pro. A man with an eye patch raises an index finger to signal that he's ready for a fresh mug of beer. Another man in a black cowboy hat adorned with feathers simply nods. They aren't wearing cop uniforms, but to fit in at the 1029, all you need is a will to drink and, of course, a shirt.