The Poodle Club was located at 810 Hennepin Ave. in Downtown Minneapolis, on the ground floor of the Anthony Hotel.
This building, located across from the State Theater, was built at the end of 1886 as the Holmes Hotel. It stood vacant for the first two years. In 1911 it became known as the Elgin Hotel. It was purchased by a local hotel operator in 1945. The name seemed to disappear, but by 1949 it was the Anthony Hotel – the name it kept until it burned down.
From sketches it appears that there were three storefronts to the building.
DOC’S SPORTSMAN’S CLUB
This was a bar, at the least – not sure if there was entertainment. In September 1936 a man dressed in riding breeches was accused of “mashing” when he accosted a female employee of the bar while she was on her way home.
Andrew “Andy” Leonard had a series of venues downtown.
Club Lido: 1935
Andy Leonard’s: 1941 – 1945
Andy’s Bar opened in 1949 at 808-810 Hennepin Ave., operated by James J. Dreis and Frank S. Leonard, probably a relative of the bar’s namesake, Andrew “Andy” Leonard. Andy was said to have been involved in running it.
In February 1954 Andy applied to take over the license. This may have been because Frank was indicted on two counts of watering down 11 bottles of Corby’s and Seagram’s 7-Crown. Frank plead guilty and was fined $250 and given two years probation. But then in October 1954, Andy’s Bar’s liquor license was transferred to the Leamington Hotel.
In November 1954 it was the Leamington that put the fixtures of Andy’s Bar up for sale, including a horseshoe bar, 54 stools, 12 booths and tables.
Andy died on February 24, 1963.
In 1960 the liquor license of Carl Blumenthal at the 114 Club at 114 S. Washington Ave., was transferred to 810 Hennepin in 1960. The 114 Club was a victim of Skid Row redevelopment.
The Poodle started out with a French theme, and its entertainment was strictly jazz.
Here are two items in a row in Will Jones’s column in 1960:
Dale Olinger, sometime guitarist with the Herb Pilhofer Trio, has organized his own trio to provide quietly swinging sounds in a brand-new saloon at 810 Hennepin.
The Poodle, next door to Jean’s French restaurant, continues the French theme with a gaslighted garden setting. The operations are separate, but a door connects the two places. After licensing technicalities are straightened out, the Poodle will be able to serve its customers food from Jean’s, and Jean’s, now liquorless, will be able to send next door for wines and such.
In 1961, Will Jones reported that:
To spice up Tuesday nights, the Poodle has initiated Monmartre night. Waitresses get out of their skimpy Playboy-style costumes and into Apache dancer skirts and berets. The bartenders wear false mustaches and berets. There’s black bread and French cheese for snacking. (Minneapolis Tribune, April 7, 1961)
Hi-Fi Jazz may have been the playing of records – a 1963 version of jazz disco.
The Jerry Pearson Trio was the house entertainment through June 1965; various singers were featured.
In December 1964, Will Jones was particularly taken with featured singer Carol Robins, who reminded him of Barbra Streisand, only not really. Excerpt:
She’s dark, chunky, and cheerfully mean-looking and when she sings “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” she does it with a sly malevolence that suggests Bill should come on home, all right if he thinks he can stand it.
In March 1966, the Poodle underwent a major expansion. Will Jones explained that management was taking over the property next door, last occupied by the defunct Shish-ke-Bab Restaurant, and turning it into a separate room for dining and dancing.
“We’re not going to change a thing in our present place, because it’s too successful,” said operator Harold “Pat” Blumenthal. “And, in the new place, we’re NOT going to have a go-go room.” (Minneapolis Tribune, March 28, 1966)
In June 1966, a half page ad announced that you could get a steak dinner, dancing, and entertainment at the Poodle for under $2! No Gimmick! The Poodle had been newly remodeled and expanded, adding twice the area for dining, enlarging the dance floor, and completely remodeling the interior and exterior. Best of all was the new menu, featuring an 8 ounce US Choice Tenderloin Steak Dinner for $1.95. “Or you can really live it up with a 14 ounce US Choice New York Cut Sirloin Steak for $2.95.
Appearing was the Jerry Pearson Trio, featuring TV and recording star Tommy DeNoble with his swinging vocals. (Minneapolis Tribune, June 21, 1966)
The ad below is from the following September, when the Trio had become a Quartet and Tommy had been replaced by Jeannie Farrell. Apparently the restaurant was called the Sidewalk Cafe.
Comedian Danny Klayman was added to the entertainment lineup in January 1967; the Jerry Pearson Quartet was still the house combo.
But finally in mid- 1967 the Poodle appeared to get into rock and blues; somehow jazz never lasts.
May 1967: the new breed featuring Jerry Cole
June – October 1967: The Untouchables featuring Carrol Bateman
October – December 1967: Tiny’s Trio Plus 1
January – October 1968’s House Band was the Starliners, alternately headed by John Fritz, Jack Kollodge, and Keith Zeller. Sock it to me!
In November 1968, Transplant took a turn at the entertainment.
The Transplants (or Transplant, as written in the calendar of events) was the house band through the entire year of 1969.
Pat and his father Carl Blumenthal bought the Anthony Hotel, which included the club, in 1969.
In December 1969, the Poodle unveiled a new piano bar called the Attic, aptly named because one had to climb a long, steep flight of stairs to get there, according to Will Jones. Early entertainers were Ronnie Neuman on the piano and percussionist Roman Gomez. Words of old songs were flashed on the wall via slides so people could sing along. The Attic was furnished with “genuine attic junk” that owner Pat Blumenthal had found in the Anthony Hotel that he had just bought (and where the Poodle was located). Blumenthal also found furnishings from his own attic, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. Jones recommended going later in the evening, when the musicians did their own thing for listening. (Minneapolis Tribune, December 13, 1969)
The Tornados had the gig from December 1969 to February 1970.
May – September 1970: Hope
On December 5, 1970, photographer Mike Barich took a trip to the Poodle to take some photos for the Insider magazine.
Como West and George Griak continued into at least August 1971.
GAY DANCE-IN AT THE POODLE
On December 30, 1971, about 30 homosexuals held a “congenial dance-in” at the Poodle to protest discrimination against gays at the club. The protest was sparked when two 22-year-old married women who were dancing with each other were forcibly removed from the dance floor the previous Monday.
The protest began when the participants arrived at about 10 pm and began dancing with members of the opposite sex for about 20 minutes. Then they paired off by gender to dance to the rock band. There was no attempt to stop them, and the participants cheered and applauded when the song ended.
The Star reported:
“I think it’s a first step,” said Steve Endean, 23, and organizer for Gay Political Activists. “They got over the idea of ‘separate but equal’ for blacks, he said. “It’s high time they did for gays.”
Dave Christian, a worker at Gay House, commented that, “We’re not trying to be obstreperous or anything. We’re just trying to see that people are decent.”
And Jim Johnson, who was managing the bar last night, said he was agreeable to the protest. “What do I care?” he said. “Otherwise we’d have had a quiet night.” He said he wasn’t there when the women allegedly had been removed and didn’t know what had happened.
The women were named, and their hair color and dress lengths were described. They said they had been coming to the bar and dancing with each other for a couple of months before the incident. One said they had been accused of doing an “obscene” dance, even though they were several feet apart on the dance floor. “The way some of these dudes (male customers) dance is a lot more obscene than anything we were doing,” she said. (Jim Talle, Minneapolis Star, December 31, 1971)
The text below this ad reads:
The Reasons have just started an unlimited engagement at the Poodle, 7 nights a week from 9 – 1. The new, new, Reasons have been together for about four months. The group consists of 7 pieces with a strong horn orientation and features the music of Ball n’ Jack, Savoy Brown, Cocker, Chicago,Santana, BS&T, as well as original compositions.
Matchbook below left (boasting “Frosted Cocktails”) from the collection of Scott Bottolene. Inside of matchbook from the collection of Mark Youngblood.
THE END OF THE FIRST POODLE
The Anthony Hotel, including the Poodle, burned down on December 20, 1973. Subzero temperatures turned the six-story building into one big icicle. The fire took three hours to put out. 75 people were registered in the hotel, and although the Fire Chief said “We expect to find some bodies,” there were no deaths. The Red Cross provided rooms for 36 people who lived at the hotel. Five people, including two firemen, were treated for injuries.
“The fire quickly reached the roof and bright yellow flames sent embers into the air that dropped into the streets and onto the crowd below,” reported the Star. Firemen were soon driven from the building by the flames. They tried to hose the roof from a ladder but the ladder was too short by several feet. They finally took hoses to the top of the adjacent Lincoln Bank Building.
The loss was estimated at $750,000. (Minneapolis Star, December 20, 1973)
THE NEW POODLE
The building on Hennepin was demolished in January 1974 and the Poodle was relocated to 3001 E. Lake Street. In 2010, the new location, by then called McMahon’s Pub, suffered a devastating fire that killed six people in the building, also owned by Blumenthal.
THE MUSIC ROOM
On June 28, 1974, Pat Blumenthal opened The Music Room, a jazz night club, at 14 S. Fifth Street, over the Longhorn Restaurant.