Local Current Blog

The Artists’ Quarter will close at the end of 2013

Mike Lewis, Chris Morrissey, and Dave King at the Artists' Quarter in 2009 (Photo by Ben Clark)

Downtown St. Paul mainstay the Artists’ Quarter is shuttering its doors at the end of the year, the Star Tribune reported today, ending its three-decade-long run of supporting jazz music in the Twin Cities.

Since its inception the club has been a nerve center for the local jazz scene and hosted respected acts from around the world. The Artists’ Quarter first opened at a location on Nicollet Ave. S. and 26th St. in Minneapolis, and later moved to Lowertown St. Paul and then to its final location in the basement of the Hamm Building on W. 7th Place in 2002.

According to the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider, soaring rent prices are to blame for the club’s closure. Owner Kenny Horst told Riemenschneider that his rent has “literally doubled” in recent years, and that he has sacrificed much of his own salary in attempt to break even, but was ultimately forced to make this tough decision to close his beloved club.

The club will continue on until January 1, and Horst says he has “big blowouts” already in the works for the final weekend of December and New Year’s Eve. Read more about the Artists’ Quarter’s past and closure in the Star Tribune’s report.

This sudden and sad news has me remembering back to many of my own great memories from the Artists’ Quarter, from seeing Happy Apple for the first time in high school to watching Chris Morrissey (pictured above), the Atlantis Quartet, and Billy Holloman’s B3 organ nights.

I’m curious: What are your memories? Did you visit the Artists’ Quarter when it was in its previous locations? And will downtown St. Paul feel the same to you without it?


  • I remember going to the Billy Holloman’s Hammond B3 night at the Lowertown location and being totally blown away. Going to the current location was cool too — my favorite memory was going there with a friend who’d brought her new boyfriend from NYC. I found it laughable that he brought his saxophone “to jam” uninvited — but later in the second set, the trio on stage invited him up. The AQ is simply the real deal.

  • Pamela Espeland

    There was a time when the AQ was the only reason I went to downtown St. Paul. This is a blow for jazz lovers and jazz musicians–especially the latter, since it’s the only dedicated jazz club in the Twin Cities and a prestigious place to have a gig. A great loss to our cultural scene.

  • Paul Kinkade

    I remember discovering The Dave King Trucking Company there! Such a shame…I wonder where I’ll have to go to hear great jazz in 2014

  • Andrew Peterson

    I only discovered the AQ in the last 2 years or so, but the memories of the shows I’ve seen there have made a deep impression on me. All of Dave Kings projects, Atlantis Quartet, Pete Whitman…such sad news, seriously.

  • Aaron Hedenstrom

    Seeing Happy Apple was one of my favorite memories from the AQ. Bryan Nichols Quintet and Atlantis Quartet as well. It was just great to have a place for original live jazz.

  • Barry Madore

    Happy Apple, surely. And Anthony Cox with many others. Don’t forget Kenny’s support of the local spoken word artist scene — open mic reading nights at the Lowertown and Hamm locations. Highlight for me? Reading on stage with live jazz accompaniment as part of Paula Cisewski’s curated spoken word nights. Best jazz moment? Sitting next to Leigh Kamman at the bar watching Dewey Redman. Sweeeet. Will be sorely missed.

  • Rob Byers

    Very sad and a big loss for the local scene. I look forward to the blow-outs at the end of the year but certainly not to the doors closing. Have heard some great moments here – Roy Haynes (!), Dave King Trucking Co, Atlantis Quartet, the list goes on. I especially appreciated the AQ’s support of jazz education and the local scene.

    Icehouse, please stand up… this is your chance. Become THE go-to venue for jazz in the TC!

  • Lori

    My husband and I had one of our first dates there in the Lowertown location. It was wonderfully romantic and I have so many fond memories hearing music here! I’m so sad that it will be gone!

  • Ali Lozoff

    I don’t have memories of the downtown sites, but the original location at 26th & Nicollet was … well, words almost fail me. To some people the closing of that venue is as significant as the closing of the Uptown was to the indie rock scene. The AQ hosted some of the most notable up and coming jazz players as well as some of the most influential and legendary local players of the day. I worked there in 89 – 90, and it was amazing to see who played there, who hung out there, and who just stumbled in. Metal dudes, MCAD students, transients, hard-core jazz fans, the Peterson family, neighborhood old-timers. Plus that corner was also home to Twin Tone Records, Garage D’or, Am Rep… that whole neighborhood was teaming with musical talent in the late 80s/early 90s and EVERYONE came to the AQ because that was THE place in the upper Midwest to see high quality jazz in a dimly lit venue with a strange assortment of characters hanging out in, at and behind the bar.

    The sound of the room was unbelievable. The ability to record straight from that space into the studios next door was amazing. Plus the food wasn’t too shabby.

    Such a huge drag to see another piece of important Minnesota music history get shuttered.

  • Stu

    I remember seeing Slug do an extended opening session for Happy Apple in ’98 or ’99, after the band showed up late due to Galtier Plaza apparently being surrounded by police. Good times. I also remember a great rendition of Filthy McNasty by “Departure Point,” a past rendition of the Pete Whitman Quartet.

  • Gail Van der Linden

    Nooooooooooooo! There has to be another way or location!!!

  • AllMediaReviews

    this is a HUGE shame as I posted yesterday. All those DEAN MAGRAW concerts there, I’ll never forget. I would hope others (including ONLINE would also mention Dean as I often think of him when I think of the AQ).

    I guess I can’t help but wonder if it had received more visible/notable support from obvious places, the increase in the cost of Rent could have been remedied. But then again, that’s probably too much to expect, lol RIP, the best venue for music in the State of Minnesota. Here’s hoping the last few months are a blast, and something comes in to fill it’s void soon.