Sunset for the Sunrise, Last of the South Minneapolis 3.2 Joints

With today's news breaking of the impending transformation/demise of the last of South Minneapolis's true 3.2 bars, I will share with you the section on the Sunrise Inn from my Dive Bars of South Minneapolis Tour Guide Booklet.

[If you'd like to order the complete booklet, please head over to the Sidewalk Store.]

Here's the section on the Sunrise Inn:

The Sunrise Inn

The Sunrise lies in a quiet place, an underwhelming residential neighborhood pressed up against the Western side of the 1950s half-baked Hiawatha freeway. It’s a misleading peace that befits the name, the rising sun over a wakeful city of rooftops and trees. But this sunrise bursts forth almost blindingly, for this is the purest of the South Minneapolis dives, a rare uncompromised specimen. Don’t stare or stay too long.

[Hands down the worst bathroom in Minneapolis.]
Dive bars typically inhabit a grey area. For many places, attributes are readily apparent in a hand-written sign or a defunct telephone. Yet elsewhere, signs of improvement lurk like new luck. Not so here at The Sunrise, one of the last holdouts of the 3.2 era. It begins in the men’s bathroom, easily the worst in town, a dark hole at the bottom of basement stairs whose squalid cramping is matched only by the flimsiness of its door. To urinate there beside the liquor cellar that lingers dark behind the padlocked chicken wire is to remember a childhood nightmare. Pity the man who drops a deuce. 

This is but one of the ways that the uniqueness of The Sunrise exceeds imagination. Unlike the Schooner, the Char Bar, or all of the other dives on this list, the Sunrise has all but stayed true to its weak compromise. The rules were simple: outside the liquor patrol limits, the beer had to be shit, weak lager especially made for modest markets, the kind of pale swill that required double-digit intake for a proper sauce.

And of all the old 3.2 joints in South, today only The Sunrise has stuck to its impotent guns. (The reason, at least what I was once told by a grizzled patron, is “Why mess with what’s working?” While they serve Summit on tap, it’s purely part of some rule bending by the inspector because, I was also told, it’s cheaper to pay a fine than to embrace the future.) Whatever the truth, this is the only spot this side of town where you need but squint to picture the great booze vacuum era of South Minneapolis, where neither whiskey nor a decent ale were anywhere to be found. For generations, this was true, and yet somehow the squalor survived. And that’s what made a true 3.2 dive so unique, a paradox of spartan excess like an all-you-can-eat fish fry or an abstinence convention.

[Bar decor: all that glitters...]
The remaining details of The Sunrise follow suit. Family friendly booths, provided your family lacks formality. An intricate wall of bar-back decor, replete with a bricolage of handwritten signs that read
like archeology. A television turned to classic action movies or forgettable sports as the hours wane. And, a sure sign of the dive, a newspaper perched atop the wood bar itself, waiting for an interested pair of eyes to browse and read publicly aloud with appropriate skeptical commentary.

Elsewhere, a pull tab machine. A small phone kiosk. The rest is noise. These wooden walls will fold around you like bad origami to transport your day into night. To leave the Sunrise, to pause and look back, is to embrace real regret. The drab white walls betray nothing of its interior intensity. You have nothing to cling to but your hazy memories. 

[A well-read Strib on the bar is the hallmark of a true dive.]

[Ladies room door.]

[Highlight from the Sunrise bathroom.]

[Every hand-written sign has a story to tell.]

[The Sunrise triptych: bicycle, pulltabs, pajama pants.]

[The telephone glowing like a technological sunset.]


Max Hailperin said...

Summit does actually make a 3.2 version of their Extra Pale Ale, so perhaps that's what they were serving? (Or at least could claim to be serving?) I've never really understood why Summit thought the 3.2 market was worth risking their brand for. Maybe that's another thing that can only be explained as a remnant of another time.

Bill Lindeke said...

thanks for the info! weirdly, that would make me glad. also it would not taste as good. but the purity would be intact.

Anil Gupta said...

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