Lee's Last Call

LAST SATURDAY NIGHT, Minneapolis City Council member Jim Niland was among more than 350 music fans packed into Lee's Lounge and Liquor Bar, digging Texan songsmith Dale Watson and the "Honkiest Tonkiest Band in the Land.'' Early Monday, Niland met with Council President Jackie Cherryhomes about the fate of the Glenwood Avenue haunt, which sits on a parcel of land the Public Works Department wants to own by the end of the year. Cherryhomes says plans have been in the works "for some time'' to consolidate the city's eight public works sites onto 10 acres just north of downtown. Niland hopes the historic juke joint can be spared, since it only occupies two-tenths of an acre. Both council members want further discussions, but Cherryhomes won't predict the outcome.

Being dragged unwittingly into city politics is nothing new for Louis Sirian, Lee's owner since 1977. In the mid-'80s, business suffered while an on-ramp to Interstate 394 was built outside his front door, cutting him off from downtown. While dirt piled up on the curb, he slashed his staff, worked seven days a week and looked to sell. Lee's began rebounding in 1994, when Trailer Trash, Nate Dungan's rockabilly band, attracted a hipper crowd, and Sirian used the profits to renovate and pump up the sound system to the tune of $300,000. Nightly music helped business increase $25,000 so far in 1997 alone; Sirian says he pays $6,000 a month in sales tax to the city.

"I suppose to some extent it would be ideal to take a lump sum and run," Sirian says. "Hell, ask my wife and she'd tell you to take a ball to the place. But the kids who come here, the kids in the bands, they deserve better.'' Dungan's not as polite: "If it turns out the City Council is being run by a bunch of crabby old men and women who can't see how vital this club is to the Minneapolis music scene, there will be rioting in the streets. You can count on it.''


A NEW CHAPTER in the Hollman settlement, the contentious legal battle over the razing of public housing high-rises on Minneapolis's North side, is once again angering tenants' advocates. A bill before the Legislature would authorize the use of tax increment finance bonds to pay for demolishing Sumner Fields and other buildings slated for razing. Currently, TIF bonds are used to finance retail development and other projects that are supposed to raise new tax dollars. But tenants' advocates like Kirk Hill of the Minnesota Tenants Union and David Markle say that the current bill would broaden the bonds' uses to include projects like the northside demolition. They also warn that the wording could end up allowing officials to include nearly any parcel of land in Minneapolis as land covered by the Hollman decree. Plus, the bill would allow developers to pay taxes based on the value of the old, torn-down development, Hill charges. "It's a transparent use of public funds for a reprehensible purpose."


THE 2-YEAR-OLD Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile (EJJ) law, designed to curb youth crime, continues to disproportionately target kids of color, according to a recent probation study. Since 1995, almost 82 percent of kids convicted under the law in Hennepin County were minorities, the majority of them black. "It's frightening," says the study's author, Hennepin County Juvenile Probation's Fred Bryan. "It just points to another way that the system tends to focus on kids of color." Minors convicted under EJJ receive one sentence as a juvenile, and another as an adult. If they violate juvenile probation, they automatically earn an adult prison term. Critics say criteria to determine who qualifies for the special status is vague, and that over-reliance on the discretion of judges and prosecutors results in discrimination.


THE LEGISLATURE'S BEEN in session for three months and nary an ethics scandal looms on the horizon. Emboldened by a lack of negative headlines, what's a lawmaker's natural response? To whittle away at the ethical-practices laws enacted in recent years, of course. Earlier this session, legislators rejected the campaign finance reforms and torpedoed lobbyist disclosure bills. Now, according to Sen. John Marty (D-Roseville), Minnesota's 3-year-old ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers may be quietly eased under the House's state government finance bill. The new measure would allow $5 worth of wooing each day--just enough to allow lobbyists to buy pizza for lawmakers working into the evening on pet projects--a kind of "think of me as you reword that bill" gesture. CP


Take away the popcorn, the music, the mis en sen, the audience response--all the details that can make even a bad movie fun--and you're left with words, and they are, well, stupid. A number of screen plays have made it onto the Net (Yahoo! indexes a number of sites). Ever heard conversation like this?


In the background, obviously still at work, an attractive BUSINESSWOMAN in her mid-30s, studying a computer printout, heads toward her office. Falling into step with her is HARRY ELLIS, 37, V.P. of Sales. Well-dressed, with stylish, slicked-back hair, he looks and acts very smooth.

ELLIS: What about dinner?

WOMAN (HOLLY): Harry, it's Christmas Eve. Families... stockings... chestnuts... Rudolph and roasty... those things ring a bell?

She turns into her office, he puts the printout down on her secretary's desk.

ELLIS: (in reply) I was thinking more of roaring fireplaces... mulled wine and a nice brie...

Holly ignores the come-on, turns to her secretary.

HOLLY: Ginny, it's 6:40, you're making me feel like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Go on, join the party, have some champagne.

Ginny slowly manipulates herself out of her seat. She is enormously pregnant.

GINNY: (grateful) Thanks Ms. Gennaro. (worried) Do you think the baby can handle a little sip?

HOLLY: (eyeing her) Ginny, that baby's ready to tend bar.

ELLIS: (not giving up) How about tomorrow night?

Holly just points to the door...


MCCLUSKY: The public loves you Jack... You don't mind if I call you Jack, do you?

SCAGNETTI: By all means.

MCCLUSKY: You're a celebrated cop. Twenty-six years on the force, a best-seller out on paperback...

McClusky grabs Scagnetti's book and reads from the back cover.

MCCLUSKY: A modern day Pat Garret. A hell-bent lawman with a deadly axe to grind with maniacs.

McClusky lowers the book.

MCCLUSKY: You're a breathing icon of justice and that's why you were chosen to deliver Mr. and Mrs. Knox. We, the prison board we, knows that once you get them on the road if anything should happen, an escape attempt, an accident, fire, anything... Jack "Supercop" Scagnetti would be there to look out for his public's best interests.


MCCLUSKY: You write the script Jack, call it, "Showdown in Mojave: The extermination of Mickey and Mallory," whatever... Have we found our man... ?

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