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April 21, 2003 // UPDATED 10:47 am - April 30, 2007
By: Ellen Nigon
Ellen Nigon

Gay Nineties meets fire code, reopens upstairs

The second floor of the Gay Nineties Theatre Cafe and Bar has reopened after a three-week shutdown due to fire-code violations.

"The Gay Nineties got everything done to get back up and operating," Fire Marshall Tom Deegan said. "They were very cooperative."

According to Deegan, in late February he had received a complaint that the Nineties was violating some fire codes -- underscored by a Channel 9 news report showing the 408 Hennepin Ave. Club with an exit gate padlocked shut.

However, since the fire department closed the second floor (home to La Femme Show Lounge and the retro bar), Deegan said the Nineties owner and staff have worked diligently to restore fire code compliance.

According to Deegan, Nineties owner Mike Bloom had to hire a design engineer to perform a code analysis of the second floor. A contractor then constructed separation walls to provide clear exit paths, installed a complete fire-alarm system throughout the building, added some smoke detection, and removed any barriers to exits.

Although the second floor has reopened, Deegan said one more expensive task must be completed within 18 months -- a building-wide sprinkler system.

"The bigger problem is the sprinkler protection system. You couldn't build that club today without it," Deegan said. "That sprinkler system is going to be very expensive. I would be surprised if it didn't cost $300,000 to $500,000."

Though the upgrades to his club are expensive, owner Mike Bloom said he understands why they're necessary. "These are changes that by law everyone has to make," he said.

Chessen's is now Harry's

Although the building at 4th Avenue and 3rd Street is still a distinctive blue color, Chessen's Deli and Bar is now Harry's Restaurant.

According to new owner H.R. "Dutch" Erkenbrack, the exterior will soon be a more subdued tan color, to match the interior's makeover. Awnings advertising the restaurant will also adorn the windows. The dark green walls inside have given way to muted taupe walls and a classy atmosphere. And soon, the interior will be sunnier with a new window.

"I think to make it a destination you've got to give the restaurant a new image customers will be able to see," Erkenbrack said.

Everybody calls Erkenbrack "Dutch," but his first name is Harry. "My wife said I had to name this place Harry's because she likes my first name, but nobody ever calls me by it," Erkenbrack said.

Erkenbrack, who also owns Minnehaha Lanes in St. Paul, said he has been friends with Chessen's former owner for years. He said he thought the restaurant had potential, so he bought it. "I wanted to have a business where I'd be able to sit down and chat with people," he said.

Skyway massage center opens

Ooh...aaah Onsite Chair Massage has opened on the skyway level of the Highland Bank Court Building, 9th Street and LaSalle Avenue.

A staff of seven massage therapists will offer chair massages in the skyways Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as in-office visits. Massages range from five minutes for $7 to 30 minutes for $35.

According to co-owner Gregg Sivesind, he and his business partner, Debra Pinkley, chose a skyway location for its high visibility.

"We've found with this kind of work that there needs to be a pretty high traffic flow to generate some interest. Obviously the skyway offers that," Sivesind said. "When you have one person getting a massage you tend to attract more people. It's visible with some privacy."

Sivesind explained the benefits of a seated massage:

"In this situation, because the massage is fairly brief, the biggest benefit is simply to calm down the nervous system to really relax. It's also physiologically helpful to get some of the toxins that build up in our system out of our shoulders and necks and arms and hands so they don't build up. It's simple stress reduction that helps to calm the nervous system."