1st Avenue is young, raucous and underdressed while nearby Nicollet Mall is upscale, buttoned-down and dressed for success
The two bustling and lively streets run roughly parallel to each other and are only two blocks apart. However, it would be nearly impossible to find two scenes as different as Nicollet Mall and 1st Avenue North.
At midnight on a Friday night, 1st Avenue between 3rd and 7th looks like this:
Lines stretch out the door at many of the bars and clubs as bouncers check IDs of those largely in their 20s. Women in tiny tank tops shiver as they wait in line. It could be December, but they aren't wearing coats -- which would hinder dancing once they get inside the bars. Men's clothing is more diverse; the college kids who wait outside the sports bars dress in cargo khakis and buttoned-down un-tucked oxfords. Some patrons wear jeans and t-shirts, while others wear whatever the hottest rapper is currently sporting (lately that's a velour running suit).
And it's loud. Music spills onto the street from the bars, drunken friends call out to one another, and a street musician beats his bongo in time with the din.
A couple of blocks east, Nicollet Mall is a different story. A lone elderly woman pushes a shopping cart across the auto-free street. The bar scene runs a shorter stretch of the mall -- between 9th and 12th streets. Music pipes out from The Local, but the street is definitely quieter than 1st. Men and women wear coats as they choose from the handful of bars.
The more sensible attire on this street may be due to the age of the patrons. Although some are as young as 21, many are in their 30s and older. Nicollet Mall's nighttime face is more demure than 1st Avenue's, but on the inside Nicollet is rollicking. By 11 p.m., Brit's and The Local are crammed with customers. Some wear suits and dresses after a night at Orchestra Hall. Others are casual in jeans.
Sheila Fearing, 36, laughs with friends and sips a rum and diet coke as she relaxes on a couch at The Local. While she says that Nicollet Mall is more "uppity" than First Avenue, she enjoys hanging out at The Newsroom, The Local and Brit's. "The crowd is definitely more my age on Nicollet Mall than it is on 1st Avenue," Fearing said. "It's also more professional."
On 1st, Fine Line Music Caf patrons Jennifer and Meghan also feel that Nicollet Mall caters to an older and sometimes more sophisticated crowd, but say they enjoy both scenes. "It's a different atmosphere between Nicollet Mall and 1st Avenue," Jennifer, 29, said. "It's a little stuffier over there." Meghan added, "They're more consumed by image (on Nicollet Mall)."
Still, the women say they enjoy going to Zelo and the Newsroom on Nicollet Mall.
On this particular night, Meghan and Jennifer are out with friends for a "girls night" and to watch '70s tribute band Boogie Wonderland.
They confirm that 1st Avenue attracts a younger crowd when Jennifer reveals, "When I was underage I used to come down (to First Avenue) more often. There were times when we came down here every weekend."