From pulltabs to pulmonary action

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June 7, 2004 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Ellen P. Gabler
Ellen P. Gabler

This gay, straight-friendly hotspot is home to line-dancing and Goth night alike

It must be the music, the muscles and, of course, the men convincing Minneapolis crowds to answer this Downtown hotspot's battle cry. Week after week, Y'all Come Back Saloon draws some of the cities' most attractive gay men -- and their friends -- to dance and drink the night away.

Although solidly established as a gay bar, those not necessarily seeking Mr. Right might also enjoy the chance to break it down on this hot dance floor or just belly up to the bar with friends.

What's hot?

Around midnight, the dance floor really heats up -- that's when brawny boys strip off their shirts to sport carefully sculpted six-packs and chiseled chests.

Doc Johnson, a Saloon veteran who has slung suds to the studs for the past 23 years knows what's up. "The only place to meet attractive people is at the Saloon," Doc says. "They may start off at another bar, but they all end up here by midnight."

Shirtless studs and their clothed counterparts shake a leg on the dance floor, while hundreds of other guys kick it in a lower key manner throughout the five-bar-complex.

By 11:30 p.m., it's wall-to-wall men in all of the bar's twisting coves, and the party is just getting started.

What's not?

Some Saloon-goers say the bar is fit only for those looking to snag a quick date.

"This is the gay meat market of the Twin Cities," one customer, Matt, said. "That's why people come here."

Also, those looking for a quiet night out might want to look elsewhere. The Saloon is no doubt a bar to booze it up and be a little boisterous -- not a lot of room for six-inch voices.

The scene

Variety is the name of the game. General Manager Mick McIvor says catering to a different crowd most nights keeps things interesting.

Mondays the straight-folks roll in, sporting black lipstick for Goth/Industrial night. (That means harder edge music like Sisters of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails.)

Tuesday's Latin salsa music brings in a strong Latino crowd, while cowboys -- or those who want to be -- come out Wednesdays for the Saloon's country-Western line dancing.

Thursday through Sundays, it's current dance music, mostly techno, or old favorites like Madonna and Beyonce to keep the guys going. A different DJ spins every night.

But not all the action happens on the dance floor -- the Saloon is pretty much a one-stop entertainment destination. There are two pool tables, a game room, patio, pulltabs and even computers with free high-speed Internet access.

And a main bar surrounded by a slue of bar stools is perfect for those just looking for a brew.

The crowd

Men run the show at the Saloon but are lucky enough to be graced with the presence of a few lovely ladies. Straight and gay, the ladies come to dance or just hang out.

Carrie said she comes to the Saloon to hang with her gay buds. "It's kind of like the Mecca for gay men in Minneapolis," she says. "Every type of person is welcome here -- it's your 'Cheers' type of bar."

Guys ages 21-34 are the main barflies here; the youngest are the bar-darlings, Matt said, making the Saloon a very welcoming place when you're just coming out.

Drinkin'

Five bars manned with strapping bartenders make getting' juiced at the Saloon pretty easy. Drink prices are standard -- $3.50 for domestic beers and rail drinks.

Those with steel livers will appreciate the Saloon's dedication to marathon drinking -- the bar boasts "the world's longest happy hour": $1 off all drinks, every day from 10 a.m. (yes in the morning) 'til 9 p.m. Sundays it's two-for-ones, 4-7 p.m.

Better-than-average bar food is available from the in-house restaurant -- a burger or tacos make a cheap and easy meal.

Cover charge and hours

If you're up for it, chances are the Saloon is too. Doors are open 10 a.m.-2 a.m. every day of the week. Thursday and Sunday nights the kids are invited out to play for 18-plus nights. If you get there before the shirts come off/before 11:30 p.m., it's free; after that, there's a $5 cover.

The verdict

I defer to the expert: "If you're gay and you haven't been to the Saloon, you're missing a large part of your culture," Doc Johnson said. "And even if you're not gay, you're still missing a large part of the culture."