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Classic corner bar bites the dust
Will become turn lane as part of Maryland Ave. widening
“It seems like all the corner bars are disappearing,” Dickie Yanarelly said from behind his East Side bar.
And indeed, St. Patrick’s Day 2014 marked the last day of Yanarelly’s, a classic East Side watering hole.
Ramsey County is buying the bar from Dickie Yanarelly, in order to improve what’s considered a hazardous intersection at Payne and Maryland avenues. The Phalen Park Liquor sign out front has been a familiar sight for decades.
The bar will be slowly emptied of half a century’s worth of relics before it meets the wrecking ball to make way for a left turn lane, likely in June, according to Ramsey County Public Works. A whole block’s worth of property will also be demolished along the south side of Maryland between Edgerton Street and Payne Avenue. In fact, demolition has already begun on a few houses, and will continue into May.
“What am I gonna do now?” pondered East Sider Frank Newton, a former boxer and regular patron of the bar. Other regulars call him “Fast Hands Frank.”
Newton says the bar was one of the last East Side bars of its kind, with strong drinks and a rough-and-tumble charm.
On a mid-March weekday afternoon, half a dozen regulars were hanging out and drinking in the afternoon, while classic pop music played and light shone in through a single window.
The interior is the essence of a timeless neighborhood bar, with wood floors, aging ceiling tiles, a pool table in the back, and a handsome wood bar stretching the entire length of the long, narrow building.
Dickie Yanarelly said he’s not too broken up about losing the place; he’s ready to retire.
Had its share of ‘drive-ins’
He called the sale “pretty much a blessing in disguise,” and said he can understand the traffic concerns.
“We’ve had six or seven cars run into the building over the years,” he says.
Nonetheless, he’s full of nostalgic memories of the place.
After all, it’s been part of his life since he was a kid. His father and uncles owned it when he was a teen, and he went on to purchase it with his brothers.
While his brothers eventually moved on to other trades, Dickie held onto the place well into his sixties, working more than full time behind the bar.
Dickie, now 66, will now have about two months to empty the bar out, deciding what relics to keep and which to throw away. He’s eyeing a second home in Florida to winter in, though he’ll also hold onto his East Side house, not far from the bar.
Dickie never got married, partly because of his commitment to running the bar.
“It’s a tough business to be in for trying to get married and have a family,” he says. “I spent many 16-hour days in this place.”
Keep it simple
Dickie said his business strategy has been the same as his father, Dick Sr.’s, who always said “keep it simple.”
“Give a customer a nice shot of whiskey and a nice cold beer,” Dickie Jr. said.
East Sider Mike Bauer, in his gruff voice, put the bar’s vibe simply: “good friends, good times,” he said.
Bauer mourned the loss of the bar, which he said follows a pattern of East Side bars closing up. He could only name a couple still standing that fit his tastes.
“It’s a sad thing to see the old bars go.”
Beyond being a bar owner, patrons characterized Dickie Yanarelly as a friend.
“(Dickie) has always been good to everyone,” says Diana Phillipson. “He’d show up to give you a ride, or loan you money... It’s old school.”
She’s been going to the bar for about 20 years.
Dickie says he gave out many a loan, most of which were eventually repaid, during his long stay at the bar.
In fact, that March afternoon, he loaned money to a woman who frequents the bar so she could bail her boyfriend out of jail.
Patrick Yanarelly, Dickie’s younger brother who used to be part owner of the bar, recalled running the establishment as “a great time in my life.”
“It was a lot of fun,” he says. But he’s not sad about the bar closing -- he says it’s gotten rougher over the years.
Patrick did say that parting with the bar would be a little harder for Dickie.
“He’s the one that won’t have a place to go in the morning,” he says. “His normal function is going to change a lot.”
Change with the times
Yanarelly’s was constructed starting in 1903, and turned into a bar in the ‘30s.
Dickie recalls that during the ‘70s the bar was booming, with workers at Hamms and Schmidt pouring in -- they drank on opposite ends of the bar, bur always got along, Dickie said.
The patronage has changed some over time with the changing demographics of the neighborhood, he says.
As Dickie put it, back in the day, people were drinking Old Crow, Four Roses, and Lord Calvert. Now, it’s Patron, tequila, and Hennessy.
And while the bar has had its fights and its rough moments, it’s for the most part been under control, Dickie said. He recalled a time when a Hell’s Outcasts biker rode through the bar on his motorcycle.
“They think they can do anything they want,” he said.
Though the bar was originally slotted to close down earlier, Ramsey County Public Works let them have one last St. Patrick’s Day run -- the bar managed to negotiate a delay so the bar could be open March 17.
Dickie treated it as one last big blowout -- there was a pig roast over the weekend, and on Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, they served beef and cabbage to crowds of old time East Siders.
The Yanarellys have schemed a way to hold on to some memories of the bar -- Patrick Yanarelly’s son is building a second garage at his house in East Bethel, to be a private memory of the bar.
He’ll install part of the Yanarelly’s bar, and put up old photos and signs from the family establishment.
“We’ll call it Little Yanarelly’s,” Patrick said.
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
Almost burned to the ground
Kari Miner, a regular at Yanarelly’s, chuckled as she recalled nearly sending the whole place up in flames.
It was a New Year’s Eve a long time ago, and she was sitting at the bar after everyone had shot little poppers up into the air as the clock hit midnight. The paper decorations were hanging everywhere, and it was a beautiful sight, she said.
Sitting at the bar, holding a lighter, another patron named Bob encouraged her to burn one, saying they weren’t flammable.
Not thinking, she went for it, lighting one on fire, which soon spread across the bar, until tiny balls of paper were on fire everywhere.
“Dickie was throwing water at it,” she said, to little avail. But, they went out, and other than a lingering plume of smoke, nothing bad happened.
That’s just one of Miner’s memories of the place, which she said she’s sorry to see go.
In a way, the bar is to thank for the birth of her daughter, she said without elaborating.
Above, East Sider Mike Bauer's sad to see it go.
Above, Fast Hands Frank demonstrates the shoeshine.