A fresh coat of paint can't hide all of the history.
The Schooner Tavern is a fascinating example of a dive bar aspiring to be something more with a clientele that seems largely unfazed by the light gentrification that has taken place. The Minneapolis dive bar came highly recommend by locals praising its preservation of original elements throughout, making the realization that almost all of them have been given a new coat of paint, new floor, new ceiling, new sign out front a little depressing for a dive bar enthusiast.
Schooner Tavern’s heritage cannot be questioned, a building that was commissioned sometime around 1905 that served as a hotel for nearby railroad workers until sometime around 1933. The discovery of liquor bottles under the floorboards suggests that perhaps Schooner Tavern was operating as a speakeasy throughout Prohibition that just so happened to be ready almost immediately after its repeal. Indeed, advertisements exist dating back to 1933 playing up The Schooner as a music venue.
All manner of vintage photo of the Schooner can be found online, showing a long and storied history not of the space, but of the revolving signage and murals both inside and out, reflecting the shifting times. And that history runs to today, where modern signage, revamped fixtures, new features throughout and a fresh coat of paint have certainly enhanced the Schooner’s standing as a bar but left behind some of its dive bar dust.
This is a dive bar review, after all, so these caveats are important, but they shouldn’t paper over the fact that The Schooner is a great neighborhood bar that on top of its history has built a substantial reputation as live music hub as well. The space inside is beautiful as far as neighborhood bars go, the effects of a recent renovation consistently felt throughout the space. The centerpiece of the space, the bar itself, has been preserved, an illuminated, arched wooden structure that looks as home today as it likely has for years.
Fresh flooring, updated drop ceiling, fresh tables and chairs, no stone was unturned during renovations, including the long illuminated sign out front with the clear image of Schooner looking out onto a part of Minneapolis that is slowly changing over. Dart boards, pool table, parking in back, the existence of The Schooner a little bit off of the more typical beaten bath in Minneapolis means that some additional square footage is available, making for a spacious setting clearly accommodating to the bar’s rotating musical acts.
Though renovations can feel bittersweet when it comes to dive bars and neighborhood pubs with the history of The Schooner Tavern, it’s hard to begrudge a bar for evolving with the decades and with the changing face of the neighborhood that surrounds it. Though some of the original features have been painted over, the classic bar and even more classic local clientele ensure the ongoing viability of The Schooner to serve neighborhood drinkers into the future.