The CC Club: An oral history

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

Metsa: What a lot of people don't realize is, cocaine for all intents and purposes was legal. It was like a currency. So if we spent a few nights up till the daylight, we weren't the only people in town doing that. You'd run into kindred shattered souls at the same time.

Arnold: When it's fucking 20 below and you gotta get a drink, it was like a magical place, because you literally wouldn't even have to put on gloves to get over there, or a hat. You just put on your stinking sport coat from the night before and stumble in and you could survive, because anywhere else you have to get in a car and risk other people's lives. It was a lifesaver, that place.

Carr: People were about their business when it came to alcohol there. The people who served you, the people who drank it. You just didn't want to act like a knucklehead. It would be bad place to get 86ed from, because then you'd never see your friends. You know, I bet ya Tom Arnold got 86ed there. I bet ya he got 86ed plenty.

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.

Arnold: You know, I was 86ed from there a couple times for periods of time. It was a nice, quiet, fun place, and then you get a bunch of loud assholes like me and the guys I knew in there, and they'll eventually throw you out. And that's what happened. And it was extremely sad because I could see the place from my bedroom window, and I knew my friends were there and I wasn't allowed in. I'd try to manipulate any way I could to get back in. And eventually they would, if I would be quiet and no fighting. You know, no obvious drug use. They were against that.

David Prass grew tired of 3 a.m. nights running the bar. On February 14, 1985, Lester J. Emard — Moe — bought the CC Club with a partner, Matt Chamernick.

Sharon Emard, Moe's wife and the CC kitchen manager: We got it on Valentine's Day. I did not want it. I knew about the CC Club all my life, and one Friday night, I came in, and the waitress — who was a sweetheart — her wig was sitting all crooked and she got these big earrings on and I think she was drinking, and I kept going, "We cannot buy this bar. We cannot buy this bar." But then we ended up going down to the Red Dragon and drinking one of those planter punches — you know what I'm talking about, it comes in a big coconut man or something, they only allow two per person or two for three people or something. And so then Moe bought it. But I knew that he would. He wasn't doing what he loved, and he loved having his own bar.

Moe Emard: When we first came in the bar wasn't doing anything. It seemed like some of the punk rockers weren't coming in because they felt like they weren't welcome. And then when I come in, I just more or less welcomed them back in. I would stand at the front door and tell these guys walking in, "I'm the new owner here, you're welcome here, we want your business, tell any of your friends." And I said to the other guys, "Scare any of these guys away and I'll throw your ass out. These are going to be the new customers, and if you can't get along with them, tough." Within three weeks the place was packed.

Sharon: Moe worked here every night.

Moe: From there we started doing lots of promotions, build the business back up. I just opened the business back up again to what it was before. We've still got quite a few customers coming in here who were coming in when we bought it.

Bobby Bell, day bartender since 1978: They didn't really do anything, no major advertising, they might have just put an "Under New Ownership" sign out front. They had an old keg cooler that David had shut down in '75 and just went to bottle beer. Moe asked me if it worked and I said, "I don't know," so he flipped the switch. It just turned right on. We've been serving tap beer since.

Jesperson: I remember when Matt and Moe bought the place and I remember them actually saying to somebody that they were going to turn it into a sports bar, and everybody looked around and just went, "Well, that won't happen. What, do you think all of these people are suddenly going to stop coming here and you're going to have a whole new clientele?" I mean, this is the place people have been going for 1,000 years.

Moe: I tried to associate myself with all the young people, you know, even though I was old enough to be their father, so I think I came across, so they felt like I became friends with them. They came in and they'd all talk to me.

Pirner: Eventually Moe ended up sleeping at my place one night, and that just made me think, wow, how your life becomes like somebody that you can be in that position, where the bartender's going to give you a ride home and then you're going to offer him a place to sleep, because that's just how much everybody knows and trusts each other.

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