Wes Burdine has been working on a plan to buy a bar near the new soccer stadium in Midway for almost three years.
Now, it’s finally become a reality. Burdine purchased the Town House Bar and is rebranding it as the Black Hart of Saint Paul. He plans to continue to cater to the LGBTQ community while adding soccer programming -- just in time for the World Cup.
Burdine became obsessed with soccer over a decade ago, watching it wherever and whenever he could. “I loved discovering a sport that was not only exciting, but about developing weird cultures of being supporters and fans,” he says. “There was a real kind of camaraderie that came about from people who liked this weird sport.”
He also has become a commentator, blogging for Howler and mlssoccer.com, as well as running the 551 soccer podcast. “I just became really enmeshed with Minnesota United, but also with soccer all over the city,” he says.
When plans to build a soccer stadium in St. Paul for Minnesota United were solidified, Burdine started approaching a number of bars in the Midway area. He eventually got in touch with Holly Monnett, who owns Town House.
“I cold-called her and told her my vision,” Burdine says. “She said, ‘I’ve been waiting for a phone call like this.’ She’d been fielding offers for a long time from developers. She liked the idea of selling it to someone in the neighborhood who would maintain some of what is there, and give it some new life. It was a perfect partnership.”
“I’m really excited about this,” says Monett, who liked the idea that Burdine would come in and keep the staff working. “We could not think of a better scenario.”
Monett started working at the bar 1974, and bought the place in 1987. With the new stadium being built, “all of us believed we’d be knocked over by development,” she says. “I like Wes. He wants to be real involved in the community.”
The plan is to maintain a lot of what Town House has already built up, and slowly start redecorating and introducing the soccer programming. “We’re not buying a dying bar,” Burdine says. “We're buying a bar that has a lot of amazing clientele.”
Black Hart will continue to serve Heggies pizza, and have some of the same programming that’s been successful at Town House. With the addition of soccer also comes the possibility of Lynx games, given there’s so much crossover between the two sports within the LGBTQ community.
Burdine believes that Midway is going through some exciting and interesting changes.
“There aren’t really good bars that are for the residents of Midway,” he says. “This wants to be a neighborhood bar that all of my neighbors want to go to.”