The dive bar wooden hull of a ship analogy will totally make sense.
Opened in 1932, Terminal Bar lays claim to a serious dive bar heritage in a city, Minneapolis, ripe for drinking in historical surroundings. Across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis, Terminal Bar sits within a stretch of longstanding buildings, anchored on one end by fellow dive bar and karaoke institution, Otter’s Saloon. Not to be outdone, Terminal Bar features a stage that sees plenty of use, from rotating bands to open mic comedy nights.
Dive bars are notorious for their use of vertical wood paneling to signal that you have indeed arrived at an affordable location to drink domestic beer. Terminal Bar has gone one step further to bring that wood paneling feel to the building’s front wall, a wood-intensive masterpiece of a dive bar façade punctuated by two half-moon windows that provide just enough room to squeeze in some beer sign neon, one of which is dedicated to the bar and its impressive 1932 opening date.
Inside, the room is broken into two halves, one dedicated to the stage in back where a wooden wall provides some mental separation between where to mill about around the bar and where to sit down to listen to some music. Up front, a curved bar dominates one side of the space flanked by low tables and red, cushioned chairs that conjure up the classic image of a dive bar booth. Faded tiled flooring may not be 1932 original, but it’s probably not too far off, a reminder that this is a dive bar that has resisted the flow of time that has slowly crept through gentrified downtown Minneapolis neighborhoods.
A handful of display cases line the walls in this front room, one housing an extensive collection of sometimes frightening ceramic figures and a host of other trinkets from the bar’s many decades of existence. Another display case depicts a number of model cars, another nod to the longevity of the dive bar’s history flanked by the Minneapolis-required Grain Belt mirrored display and a wide selection of bar neon.
The bar itself comes with a number of wooden trusses, for lack of a better term, that extend from the wall and provide a little visual distinction between bar and seating area. The contraption sparks a feeling akin to drinking in the hull of a ship, like the Minneapolis dive bar equivalent of a cruise ship entertainment area, complete with open mic. The area behind the bar is a tribute to dive bar signage and knick knacks, from a timeless Budweiser Clydesdale clock to a less aged piece of paper reading “Pickled Eggs, Yes We Have ‘Em!” Domestic staples like Old Style and Hamm’s can be found here, cash only of course.
A recent remodel of the bathroom areas seems to have cleared up the chief concern most patrons had about the aspects of a dive bar that can sometimes leave a bit to be desired. Gone is the smell of urine, replaced with some new tiling that might remove a little bit of the 1930s-era credibility, but it’s hard to argue with preserving the smell of urine based on principle.
The stage area comes complete with the same faded tile that can be found throughout Terminal Bar, a raised platform in the middle of a fairly large space. The wood paneling theme is certainly alive and well back here, bits and pieces of neon scattered along the walls to break up the brown. On this reviewer’s recent visit, a 50th birthday celebration took place featuring members of a band playing a show where they started their rise many years ago. And that’s the kind of dive bar this is, a timeless staple in a city that loves a timeless staple.
Terminal Bar channels the best elements of the hull of a ship, if such a thing exists, from the wood paneling inside and out to the structural elements that provide just enough visual variety to create the right kind of dive bar ambiance. Aged flooring, drop ceiling, Old Style behind the bar, Terminal Bar is as Minneapolis dive bar as it gets, the sum total of decades of existence, now, apparently, urine smell-free.