“Al ran this place as a playground, and now it’s being run as a business.”
Jesse Degross is the new manager of Alary’s Bar, and he wants everyone to know: It’s not how it “was” anymore.
In case you’re unfamiliar with how it was, Alary's was a cop bar with (very) scantily clad servers and bartenders. "At about nine 'o clock, they'd all come in pretty much wearing nothing."
Which is perhaps the biggest change of all.
“Everyone is dressed appropriately now,” says Degross. “We want everyone to feel welcome here. Women, men, families, kids.”
The staff has changed over almost in its entirety, all of them leaving by their own volition, and there are even some men on the staff these days.
“I’m not going to discriminate based on gender, and everyone gets treated with respect here now," Degross explains.
The bar originally opened in 1949 under Al Baisi, a former Chicago Bears football player and his partner Larry Lehner (the portmanteau of their names = Alary's). Lehner eventually dropped out and Baisi ran the place until 2005 when he passed away, leaving it to his son Al Jr., who passed away in 2015 leaving it to the estate. Commercial real estate company Maven R.E. Partners purchased it from the estate, who hired Degross to oversee things, brinigng it to the Alary's of today.
In addition to the personnel changes (and their attire), the bar is getting a makeover with new flooring, a more open and welcoming space, better furniture, and come October, a full kitchen.
And what about the dozens of squad car doors, famously hanging from the rafters? An astounding 140 in all have been removed for the time being, and some of them will be replaced, “selectively.” The ones that don’t make the cut will be offered back to the precincts from whence they came.
Degross says that Alary’s will maintain its comfortable, working-class neighborhood vibe, and that they want to keep the reputation as a home bar for the police force. “We appreciate all they do,” he says, "but you know, it’s a business now. So the cops don’t drink for free anymore."
The new Alary’s has a decent wine list, craft cocktails, and a 144-seat patio out back that nobody knows about. Also: free parking and shuttles to Wild and other Xcel games.
Feedback from the neighborhood has been mostly positive, although, Degross says, there are a few old regulars who want to know: “When is it shift change?” Meaning, when are the ladies in their skivvies going to arrive?
Degross says he simply directs them to another bar where you can be served by half-naked women, because Alary’s is not that anymore.
“We’re going to go ahead and treat all of my staff with respect,” he offers.
139 Seventh St. E., St. Paul