RIP: The Quest nightclub

RIP: The Quest nightclub

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The passage into 2007 marked the second year in a row the Quest nightclub wasn't open for business on New Year's Eve. A year ago, the Warehouse District mainstay was closed because of a license dispute with the city of Minneapolis. This time around, the club had been closed since August because of water damage from a fire on top of the Wyman-Partridge building at 110 North 5th Street, which houses the venue.

Now, after months of speculation, the joint is apparently closed for good.

In the last two weeks, word around town has been that the Quest has been evicted, after failing to make a number of rent payments. Ned Abdul, a downtown developer who owns the Wyman-Partridge, confirms that the Quest is gone, saying that the club, owned by former Prince bodyguard and business manager Gilbert Davison, chose not to "continue" its lease agreement. He did not elaborate.

"Ned Abdul gave the Quest ample time to get back on its feet," says Mark Webster, a jack-of-all-trades for the club who most significantly was head of security at Quest from 1998 to 2004. "There were liquor license problems, there were insurance problems, but mostly they weren't making rent. There was an issue waiting on money after the fire, but it all became too much."

The end is fitting for a club that seemed simultaneously charmed and cursed. The space opened as a prime music venue in October 1990 under name Glam Slam with major financing--most of some $2 million--from Prince. Almost immediately there were financial problems, and most of them fell on the shoulders of Davison and his company Heaven and Earth, which was the majority owner of the club.

According to a 1995 Pioneer Press story that documented a number of the club's legal and financial woes, Glam Slam was as much as $250,000 in the hole by early 1992. (The notoriously press-shy Davison could not be reached for comment.)

By October 1995, the club had shed its affiliation with Prince and opened under a new name, Quest. Though the business end of things seemed to run more smoothly over the ensuing years, the club--rightly or wrongly--became associated with an increase in melees and violence in the Warehouse District.

One 2003 stabbing in St. Paul apparently had its origins in a show at the Quest. And one fatal shooting in North Minneapolis in early 2004 cast suspicion on nightclub, even though chief operations officer Tony Harris told the Star Tribune at the time that the Quest "was in no way the genesis of this unfortunate situation." And there was a shooting outside of the venue in December 2005.

"There were always things that the Quest was held accountable for that we were not responsible for," Webster says. "People would run to the club whenever there was a fight or a shooting or a stabbing."

Part of the reputation certainly has to do with the fact that the club was one of the few venues in town committed marquee hip-hop acts. But the fact of the matter is, Quest was a rare business that could easily cater to black audiences and white audiences--and on some nights, an organic mix of both.

In recent years, rock artists like Franz Ferdinand, Audioslave and Jet have graced the stage, along with acts that Webster recalls, like 50 Cent, Nelly, Justin Timberlake and, yes, Lionel Richie. And of course, there was the fundraiser for the late Karl Mueller that featured Soul Asylum, Paul Westerberg and a briefly reunited Grant Hart and Bob Mould. Even Miles Davis played there in the early days, according to press reports.

"When we had the right staffing, we were a great club, one of the 20 best in the country," Webster offers.

None of that mattered much to city leaders, who had a hand in shutting down the Quest in December 2005 when the club failed to pay $10,000 for a security camera the city installed on a nearby corner. The city then revoked the club's liquor license. By mid-February, the club had reopened, but the $75,000 in damage from the fire this summer apparently proved insurmountable.

Ned Abdul, who also owns the Wyman and Lumber Exchange buildings, is mum about what might go into the space, but many note that his anchor tenant in the Wyman-Partridge building is advertising powerhouse Carmichael Lynch. Whatever goes into the Quest space, the speculation goes, it's likely it will be significantly upscaled. Webster himself says he doesn't know the future of the space, but surmises, "I really believe it will be another club."

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