The CC Club: An oral history

The iconic bar's owners, famous patrons, and hometown regulars remember the dive's best moments

The CC Club has long been a drinkers' haven in south Minneapolis, a dim intersection of different scenes and people from across the city. Few establishments in the Twin Cities have seen more glasses emptied, cigarettes smoked, or strangers find each other.

Along with generations of neighborhood residents, Tommy Stinson of the Replacements wasted entire days drinking there, as did Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner. New York Times columnist David Carr spent late nights and early mornings there back when he was a reporter for the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader. Before he married Roseanne, actor Tom Arnold lived across the street while trying to break into comedy, and hosted parties after bar close.

But the neighborhood is changing. In a part of the city once defined by its independence, expensive condos crowd the streets and corporate chains have pushed out local businesses. Earlier this year, the owners of neighboring restaurant French Meadow bought the CC, and will officially take ownership on May 1. The new managers say they plan to keep the bar the same, but some CC regulars are skeptical — perhaps because the French Meadow is an organic bistro, and the CC is a seedy dive bar. Or maybe it just seems inevitable that a place like the CC Club can't last forever.

Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner was one of many musicians who turned the CC Club into his living room.
Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner was one of many musicians who turned the CC Club into his living room.
When David Prass bought the CC in 1974, he changed the bar's name to the CC Club and made T-shirts to announce it.
When David Prass bought the CC in 1974, he changed the bar's name to the CC Club and made T-shirts to announce it.

Some interviews have been condensed and edited.

In 1884, the first structure was built on the lot that's now the CC Club: a barn. It was converted into a garage by the early 20th century. Prohibition ended in December of 1933, and by the next year, the building re-opened as a bar. Not long after, Clarence E. Campbell bought the place and named it the CC Tap.

Check out our behind the scenes look at the CC Club

Moe Emard, current co-owner of the bar: I knew a lot about the bar before I bought it. I was coming in here when I was 24 [in 1957]. It was a beer joint, the most well-known beer joint in the five-state area. Any kid from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin would come into town, first place they knew about when they were in high school was the CC Tap. And of course they had bands.

Curt Almstead a.k.a. Curtiss A, musician: It was the CC Tap when I started playing there in '74, and there was no liquor, just 3.2 beer. The band that played there was called Thumbs Up. I did not name it; it was not named after the Fonz or anything like that. We played every night but Sunday, from 8 till 1, five hours a night, in the back on the left, where I think there might be pinball machines or pool tables now. We played there for a year, and during that year the record store across the street was called Oar Folkjokeopus.

Peter Jesperson, manager at Oar Folk and co-founder of Twin/Tone Records: In January of '73 it changed from North Country Music to Oar Folkjokeopus. I started working there in April of 1973. My first encounters with the CC were — they used to have a deep fryer right there in the front behind the bar, so I used to run across the street there to get a sandwich to bring back to the record store to eat. I remember standing at the bar waiting for my food to go, and there was a band playing in the back. I think there are pinball machines or pool tables back there now, I'm not sure, but in the back as you walked into the back left corner was a little stage there, and there was a band playing called Thumbs Up. That was Curt Almstead, Curtiss A, and his crew. I was knocked out. I fell head-over-heels in love with that band almost instantly.

Almstead: Record store guys are a little hipper than thou, so if he were to come over and see us doing Lynyrd Skynyrd or whatever, I don't think he would have been as enthralled. But he came over and he heard us doing a song by the Cryan' Shames, which was a Chicago '60s act, a one-hit wonder, and it was called "I Wanna Meet You." It was a song about seeing a Playboy Bunny. [Sings] "I first saw you in a magazine, I wanna... mmmeeet ya."

Jesperson: After I heard Curt and Thumbs Up, I ended up becoming a big fan, and my main reason for wanting to start a record label was to make records with Curt.

Almstead: Peter became interested in recording me. I was told that one of the reasons he started Twin/Tone was so he could record me. But I just remember looking out at the crowd and seeing that every table was a different band. Some of the guys from the Commandos, some of the guys from the different bands in town and their girlfriends. It was a party every night.

Jesperson: I moved into the neighborhood, into a building on the corner of 26th and Garfield, directly behind the record store there, and that became kind of a famous den of iniquity for a lot of rock 'n' roll people. Curt lived there for a while, and many, many other people, and I lived there for a long time, and, anyway, then it was the neighborhood. And the CC was the place to go have a drink, or have a lunch or a dinner. It became sort of the lobby of the Hotel 26th and Lyndale. We hung out there all the time.

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