Stillwater's Mad Capper: New vision for a historic bar


A historic bar in downtown Stillwater has a second life thanks to a creative local entrepreneur. 

Established in 1979, the Mad Capper became a staple on Main Street. Sara Jespersen and her family purchased the building in August 2021 and, after a short refurbishment, opened the doors back up in September. The Jespersens chose to continue calling the bar the Mad Capper, making it the oldest bar in town to maintain its name.

Jespersen moved to Stillwater 10 years ago and has been a champion of the Stillwater community, bringing attention and innovative ideas to the picturesque downtown area. She first adopted the historic stairs in the downtown area and found her passion for community engagement. 

Small business closures during the pandemic only fueled her desire to bring people to Stillwater to experience everything the town has to offer. Her accomplishments include opening an axe-throwing bar, helping to bring the World Snowsculpting Competition to Stillwater, and reimagining an alley once used for trash into a showcase for local artists.

Like many businesses with ownership changes, the Mad Capper had growing pains during its reopening in 2021. After several menu changes, Jespersen let her entire kitchen staff go to start anew.

Describing the rocky start, she quoted Ted Lasso saying, "It's never wrong to do the right thing."

After a new kitchen crew, the Mad Capper returned to its roots with large portions and bar classics. Jespersen and her staff brought back fan favorites from the previous ownership and committed themselves to making "better bar food." The extensive menu features elevated bar food made from scratch, including shareable appetizers like walleye fingers, a variety of burgers and sandwiches, as well as hefty portions of pasta. 

Boxer John Ertle's original gear hangs in the bar area of Stillwater's Mad Capper. (FOX 9)

Jespersen also worked on preserving the rich history of the building by reaching out to previous owners and families with ties to past occupants. Once owned by boxing champion John Ertle, the building was a billiards and boxing hall that hosted fights and became a spot for the community to come together. Ertle's original speedbag, gloves, and shoes are displayed in the bar.

Above the bar is a two-story loft called the Capper's Terrace, available for vacation rentals. The loft sleeps seven people and boasts two rooftop decks. 

The Mad Capper is open six days a week and hosts a happy hour from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Reservations for the Capper's Terrace are available here.