Bearcat Bar closed site
Bearcat Bar website
Sadness at the barcade! Ask not for whom the last pinball tolled—it tolled for thee, dear brand-new Bearcat Bar, you Loring Park barcade that died today.
“Yes, today,” owner Kim Bartmann told me. “It’s sad. It’s the worst. We have jobs for a lot of the employees,” (at one of her seven other Minneapolis restaurants, including Pat’s Tap and Red Stag), “but not for everyone. It feels so horrible, it’s the worst feeling in the world, not being able to have that job for someone when that’s what you were trying to do.”
What happened? “It’s a tough location—a destination location,” Bartmann told me. “Third Bird [the Bartmann restaurant that preceded Bearcat] was too ambitious for the neighborhood, and not ambitious enough to be a destination. As a destination, you either go high [like Piccolo] or go low [like Valleyfair.] I thought let’s go low—and all that happened was that we lost money faster. I’ve got employees at 7 other restaurants to protect, so we can’t keep losing money there. We’ve got lots of liquor—if anyone wants to pay for a big party or two this month let me know, it would be a really good one. It’s a gorgeous space, it’s where I had my wedding.”
Well, this is bad news all around. I’m sorry for everyone losing their jobs. That has no doubt been a tough location ever since Loring Park gentrified. Since the Loring Cafe turned into Bar Lurcat, this down-the-block location has seen a rapid overturn of restaurants, including the two versions of Nick & Eddie, the Third Bird, and that oddly dark version of Cafe Maude.
Of course, with all of us on edge about Minneapolis’ City Council trying to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour without any offsetting for front-of-the-house employees like servers and bartenders who earn far more than that, I had to ask Bartmann what that would have meant for Bearcat.
She laughed ruefully. (Most restaurant owners I talk to about this either laugh ruefully, groan, or curse.) “I’ve put our restaurants down for the Pathway to $15 website, you should look at it. It’s an organization that is doing good work. Other than that, I’ve been scared into silence. I feel like the black-and-white vitriol is just as intense coming from the far left as it is from the far right, and it’s not productive. For me to stand in a meeting and have some 24-year-old shaking his fist and telling me there is suffering in the world—no thanks. I know that. I’ve been paying people’s health insurance since 1993.” Which, for the record, was decades before nearly everyone. Bartmann estimates she has somewhere between 250 and 300 employees at any time, because of the seasonal variation of spots like summer-only Bread & Pickle. “Everybody wants to get to a good wage for all their employees,” said Bartmann. “Well, everyone with ethics. What Pathway to $15 is proposing is a reasonable way to do that, so that tipped employees' wages get recognized as income by other people than the IRS and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.”
Both tax-collecting agencies record and take taxes on servers' tips.
“Since time immemorial, servers have paid taxes on their tipped wages, but on the other side of the coin, we don’t recognize that as income, somehow. I can tell you exactly how much tips any server that works for me earns, it’s all on the P.O.S.” That is, the point-of-sale system that spits out your check, and then tallies your total credit card charge that includes the tip. “It’s ridiculous to say that for someone the IRS says is earning $30, $40, $50 an hour, that is someone I should pay another $6 to. The only way that makes sense is if nobody wants table service anymore and you want to see half the restaurants in Minneapolis close—I don’t want to see that.”
I don't even want to see one two-month-old baby toddler barcade close. Sorry Twin Cities, sorry Bearcat, thanks for trying to make us happy—it was a good fight.