BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR (ST. PAUL) - 2002
A bar has occupied the northeast corner of Randolph and Victoria streets since 1885, and it's safe to say little but the name has changed in those 117 years. Then it was Wittmer's Saloon and Tobacco Shop; now it's the Spot. Michael O'Toole, the current proprietor, took over with a fellow bartender in 1983. "I was tired of working for crazy saloon owners," O'Toole explains. Most drinks cost $1.95, no matter if you want a whiskey and water or a pint of Pig's Eye. If you really want to unload some dough, order a pint of Guinness for $3.70. There's no happy hour, because it jacks up insurance costs. Like most St. Paul bars, the Spot used to be a union shop. Stan "Killer" Kowalski, the professional wrestler, was the bar's union rep. Every month he'd come by and hit the bartenders up for their dues. On Friday mornings back then, the Spot would be packed to overflowing with overnight workers from the nearby Univac plant. Nowadays there's still a steady run of 8:00 a.m. drinkers, mostly neighborhood skells. It's a good bar to sit and watch baseball in--O'Toole is a big Twins fan. There's a poster of Osama "Bud" Selig on the door, along with photos of other suspected leaders of terrorist cells--like Carl Pohlad and George Steinbrenner. There are dartboards and a jukebox, but no pool table (again, drives up the insurance). On the back wall are pictures of other Spot Bars around the world, from Staples, Minnesota to London, England. "It all started with the one in Bangkok," O'Toole says. "Some lady was stumbling down an alley and found a Spot Bar." This Spot, however, seems bound to remain exactly where it is.