508 Bar Closes Permanently in Downtown Minneapolis
508 Bar + Restaurant. From 508’s Facebook page.

508 Bar Closes Permanently in Downtown Minneapolis

Owner cites lack of Minneapolis Police response as key factor.

The 508 Bar in downtown Minneapolis has closed its doors for good. Covid-19 was a factor, of course, but owner Ryan Brevig says that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the refusal of Minneapolis Police to respond to a mid-June call to disperse crowds blocking entrances outside of the bar on First Avenue North.

Brevig said that the incident took place on Friday, June 12, and that Tim Mahoney, owner of the adjacent Loon Café, contacted the police.

“They basically told us, ‘No, we will not be coming down’,’ and we advise that you close and lock your doors,” recalled Brevig. “For me that was kind of it. You know what? If you can’t even ensure the safety of our guests and our staff, what are we doing down here?”

Mahoney said that the incident happened in the middle of the afternoon. Large groups of young people had taken over their patios bringing their own food and smoking pot. After having no luck on the phone, Mahoney walked to the MPD 1st Precinct station.

Mahoney said he was told, “’If there isn’t a violent crime going on, we’re not coming.’ Basically, what they said is there’s nothing we can do.”

MPD spokesman John Elder was not able to provide comment on the incident before Twin Cities Businesses’ online deadline.

Brevig said that they shut the doors that Friday night and remained closed on Saturday and Sunday over the weekend. They reopened for the lunch hour on the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but then shut the doors.

On Tuesday Brevig fired off a lengthy email about the closure and lack of police response to Mayor Jacob Frey, the entire Minneapolis City Council and the Warehouse District Business Association.

“Within three minutes of hitting send on that email, my phone rang and it was Frey, the mayor,” said Brevig. “He said he’d been there many times and considered it kind of a downtown staple…It was nice that he called.”

The mayor’s office confirmed to Twin Cities Business that Frey spoke with Brevig.

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an intense political debate is underway in the city about the role of the Minneapolis Police Department. The Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a charter amendment on the November ballot which calls for dismantling the police department and replacing it with a “community safety and violence prevention” department. Mayor Frey and downtown business groups oppose the idea.

Previous MPD statistics showed that for the year between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 police could not immediately respond to 6,776 “priority one” calls. That works out to an average of more than 18 calls per day. Priority one calls can include a shooting, sexual assault or domestic assault in progress.

The 508 Bar originally opened in 2008. Its neighbor, The Loon Café, has been a Warehouse District staple since it opened in 1982.

“These guys are great operators they’ve been very successful,” said Mahoney of the 508 Bar.

Mahoney expects to see more restaurants closing for good: “There’s going to be a lot more than 508.”

Mahoney said that he doesn’t think that downtown businesses are getting much help from City Hall.

“The elements from the city council and the city government have been and continued to be detrimental to our industry,” said Mahoney.

Minneapolis-based design firm Shea Inc. has a number of clients who own buildings or operate restaurants in downtown Minneapolis.

“There is a very high level of frustration…there is a lack of support for businesses and a lack of protection,” said Tanya Spaulding, a principal with Shea. “I’ve heard that many times in the last few months.”

Brevig’s Rocket Restaurant Group owns five other restaurants: locations of The Loop in both North Loop and St. Louis Park, and three additional restaurants in Rochester.

“The pandemic did not help our situation. That did us damage,” said Brevig.

But Brevig said that he has bigger concerns.

“As a Minneapolis guy I am nervous about the direction our city is headed,” said Brevig. “I’m nervous we’re headed for a Detroit situation where you’ve got half of your buildings boarded up.”