Jetset -- A Gay Bar for Men and Women
115 N. 1st St., 339-3933
Nestled amongst red brick office buildings, an unpredictable coffee boutique and a venerable, independent theatre company, Jetset is smack dab in the now-thriving Warehouse District. Opting for a quiet opening 18 months ago, the "Gay Bar for Men and Women" has introduced a refreshing option for a bustling gay community sorely in need of one.
For years, local gay (and gay-friendly) residents have had to content themselves with the standard "shame palaces" (i.e., bars with no signs, windows -- very hush-hush) or the impossibly over-the-top Gay '90s, which, if you ask anyone, is more straight than gay nowadays. Thankfully, Jetset has brought an understated and elegant establishment to Downtown.
Atmosphere: The glass faade invites sidewalk strollers to step up to the window for a closer look. Once inside, you're immediately struck by the expansiveness of the space -- I've heard people say it feels like a gallery. Jetset's dcor combines a minimalist yet 1960s retro feel designed by co-owner Peter Kirihara (also proprietor of Warehouse District stalwarts Moose & Sadie's Coffeehouse and Bev's Wine Bar). In fact, Kirihara likes to tinker with his bar's visual appeal, repainting the back wall at least three times a year with a seasonal color of his choice.
Unless you are behind one of the three support pillars running down the center of the bar, a new visitor's entrance will be noticed by all-- no doubt by design. In fact, I felt I was doing a bit of a catwalk making my way to the bar. The '60s-inspired airport lounge furniture is decidedly lower to the ground, inviting people to turn their heads and notice you.
Crowd: The scene depends on the night. Visit Jetset on a Wednesday and you might notice a less pretentious crowd listening to a remixed version of a Billie Holliday classic. The weekends offer young DJs spinning deep house music patrons can feel at their core. On the Friday evening I ventured out, the "pretty people" were in strong attendance -- literally standing shoulder to shoulder by 11 p.m. Predominantly white, male and gym-friendly, the mid-20s-on-up natives were social and well-dressed -- expect lots of black and tight t-shirts (yes, even in winter).
Service: Bar workers were cordial if not overly talkative. (Co-owner Susan Liesch always seems to present a happy face regardless of how much she's running around!) The night I visited, Jetset seemed to be a bit understaffed, however. As the night wore on, it became harder to get a drink or find the one waitress who blended in with the fashionistas. In all fairness, that could have had more to do with people congregated three deep at the bar...
Cost: For as often as I've heard Jetset referred to as an "upscale" bar (what does that mean, anyway?), I expected to pay through the nose. Not the case. My bar tab was comparable to any Downtown nightspot: $6 Cosmos (silky smooth with just enough lime), $4.25-$5 highball drinks, $4 imported beers. Happy hour is 5-8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, featuring $1.25 off of all drinks with light fare served.
X-Factor: Not a place to go alone. Although one can easily strike up a conversation, Jetset seems to encourage the congregation of small groups. I felt self-conscious walking in alone until I spotted two friends warming the bar for me. The smoke-free atmosphere was appreciated -- although I hadn't immediately recognized it.
Verdict: Jetset has raised the bar for tasteful establishments catering to a fashionable, gay clientele in the Twin Cities. As 41-year-old Vince offered, "I always feel so grown up when I come here."
I second that sentiment and raise my Cosmo to you, Jetset.