Northeast spotlight :: Five years of 331 Club

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March 29, 2010 // UPDATED 8:24 am - March 29, 2010
By: Lana Walker
Lana Walker

331 Club celebrates five years of life and local music

Perhaps more than any other part of Minneapolis, Northeast has continually grown as a hub for the arts, music and small business. It would be hard to find a place that embodies this right-brained, cultural spirit better than the 331 Club, which celebrates its 5th anniversary on March 31.

Five years ago, owner Jarret Oulman’s father, who had purchased the business after it closed as a biker bar, handed him the reins to 331 Club. The former schoolteacher, now 32 years old, had a little restaurant experience, but a lot of vision. He could see that Northeast was an emerging center for artistic minds and wanted to craft his bar to be an environment that matched that identity.

Oulman set to work, logging nearly 70 hours a week for the first two years of the business — booking local music and events, and managing the bar. “I knew that my goal was not to have to do that in five years.”

Not only was that goal met — as 331’s staff has increasingly stepped up to booking and other responsibilities — but Oulman’s larger vision of creating a laid-back, local music scene was achieved as well. “Once the music started to work, we started trying to bring acts to Northeast that wouldn’t have necessarily played here before,” he said. “We’ve had a chance to bring in local acts from St. Paul and Uptown. That really helped us cultivate music and entertainment seven nights a week.” The rest, he said, fell into place when the right people walked in the door.

The owner attributes 331’s success to the people that have worked with him along the way — employees, sound people and acts — but the special attributes of the bar, such as weekly events nights and free cover cannot be overlooked either.

“We worked really hard to stay true to the no-cover concept — making it accessible and also making it so that our club could host quality entertainment and not turn away the neighborhood at the same time,” Oulman said. “Sometimes that was really hard to do, but we’ve kept it that way and it’s become part of our identity now.”

Now at the five-year mark, Oulman has twice as much on his hands with his second location in full swing — the 501 Club on Washington. Despite that, Oulman can look back, appreciate the work he’s put in and bask in the result. “It’s better than I had expected,” he said.

To celebrate its milestone, 331 Club is hosting a week’s worth of anniversary events March 28–April 3, including special editions of their regular favorites: Chuck and Sean’s trivia, Dr. Sketchy’s burlesque drawing, Blingo and the 331 Drinkin’ Spelling Bee. And true to form, the week will be full of live, local music, including acts such as the Roe Family Singers, Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins, Unknown Prophets and a reunion show from the Crush Collision Trio. Oulman explained that all the bands participating have a history with 331 and have played an important role in its evolution since the beginning.

“We’re able to celebrate with the people we’ve grown up with,” Oulman said.

Before 331’s 10-year anniversary rolls around, Oulman has a to-do list of small changes he’d like to make; a tweak here and a fine-tune there. First is to beautify the patio and utilize it more for outdoor events — another block party toward the end of summer would be ideal, he said. Next is to make the food better, followed by some aesthetic flair. “It’d be great to have a swimming pool bar on the roof,” Oulman joked. “I’ve always wanted one of those. Or a huge fish tank with a mermaid in it.”

Fine-tuning and joking aside, however, Oulman wants nothing more than to continue doing business the way he has thus far — doing his part for the Twin Cities’ music scene.

“I want it to stay the same,” he said, “hosting quality entertainment and being a venue that can help creative people build their acts, their ideas and concepts, and bring them to our audience.

“For the 331, that’s the key: just keep on doing what we do well.”

331 Club: Five-Year Anniversary Weeklong Celebration
331 13th Ave. NE                                                                                                                                    
March 28–April 3
No Cover