Local Current Blog

Artists’ Quarter reborn as Vieux Carre

The entrance to the Vieux Carre—seen here in January—is tucked behind the Hamm's Bear monument on St. Peter Street. Photo by Jay Gabler/MPR.

After sitting empty for a year, downtown St. Paul jazz venue the Artists’ Quarter has reopened its doors under the new name Vieux Carre. It is now owned and operated by Minneapolis’s Dakota Jazz Club.

The beloved basement club was named after New Orleans’s historic French Quarter; the name is meant to translate to “old quarter” in honor of the club’s past. It opened on New Year’s Eve with a New Orleans-style jazz performance by local ensemble the Southside Aces.

Last week’s debut event was the first of several “pop-up parties” to be held at the club through February before it tentatively closes for a few months for renovations. The building’s space limitations might keep it from becoming a full-scale restaurant like the Dakota, but a limited menu will likely be offered. Dakota co-owner Lowell Pickett said the club nabbed its liquor license just in time for the New Year’s Eve debut.

Pickett hopes there will be live music in the venue five to seven nights a week, he told the Star Tribune in April. “We still have to sort through some things and get the work done, but it’d be a shame to let this space sit unused any longer,” he added last week.

He said the Dakota’s “roots are in St. Paul,” where it opened in 1985 in Bandana Square, its first location. “We seem like a natural fit for this space and are very in line with keeping its legacy alive.”

The Artists’ Quarter opened in Minneapolis in the 1970s and closed there in 1990. It reopened in 1995 in St. Paul’s Lowertown under the watchful eyes of former owner Kenny Horst, moving to the basement of the Hamm Building in 2001. Despite protest from the community and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, the Quarter closed on Dec. 31, 2013, after struggling with rising costs.

Hailey Colwell is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota and a co-director of Theatre Corrobora.