'The soul of south Minneapolis': Regulars remember 90 years of the CC Club

On a late Wednesday night at the CC Club in south Minneapolis, a crowd of regulars gathers at the iconic watering hole. 

It's the kind of place where everyone knows your name, like the 26th and Lyndale's version of Cheers.

"It's fun. It's a good place to meet people in the neighborhood. It's kind of like an old boat to me. It's just fun to see the old boat still afloat," said regular customer Steve Johnson.

"It's so laid back and there's all different kinds of people that come here when it comes to something for everybody to talk to and just chill with," said another regular Channing Florenz.

"It is very like a dive baresque, like a hole in the wall, if you will, but super awesome," said regular Mikayla Hofstad.

Next month, the CC Club will celebrate its 90th anniversary and its special place in Minnesota music history.

"There aren't a lot of bars who can say they've been around for 90 years," said co-owner Randy Segal.

Segal says long before its current incarnation as the CC Club, the building was home to the CC Tavern, which opened soon after the end of prohibition in 1933 as a 3.2 bar named after its owner Clarence E. Campbell, although a bricked-up tunnel in the basement suggests the building may have been a hotspot before alcohol became legal across the land.

"Kind of wink, wink, nod, nod. Apparently, they were maybe making liquor on the other side of the street and shipping it underground. I don't know if that's where the term speakeasy came up in the roaring 20s, but it was kind of what I would assume was that kind of thing was going on," said Segal.

In the 50s, the name changed to the CC Tap, which was the most well-known beer joint in the five-state area, and home to dancing and live music.
It wasn't until the mid-70s, when the bar got a full kitchen and liquor license, that it received the familiar name so many came to know and love.

"I heard somebody say once that 26th and Lyndale was like the Haight-Ashbury of Minneapolis. It was really kind of the center of the music scene for a while," said Peter Jesperson.

Jesperson was the manager at the Oar Folkjokeopus record store kitty corner from the CC Club and co-founded Twin/Tone Records with two friends. 

He says the musicians who hung around the record store would often have a drink at the bar, turning it into ground zero for the emerging Minneapolis alternative rock scene, where bands like The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and The Suburbs, mixed and mingled with other artists from the neighborhood.

"I think people genuinely moved into the neighborhood of 26th and Lyndale to be near Oar Folk, and the club was right across the street and a lot of people who like rock and roll music also like to have a beer from time to time," said Jesperson.

"It had way, way more than Cheers had on TV, if you know what I'm saying. All our friends hung out there. We saw everyone there. It was the place to go meet, hang out, do whatever you know," said Tommy Stinson, bass guitar player for The Replacements.

In fact, it is widely believed that the Replacements front man Paul Westerberg wrote the song "Here Comes A Regular" about the bar.

"When I hear that song, I kind of picture the CC Club and Paul sitting there at that bar, so I think that it's a good chance that that was really the inspiration for that song," said Jesperson.

"It would be hard to imagine it was from any other place, to be frank with you, but I didn't write it, so I don't know. But yeah, it would seem the most obvious place or more to the point, the vibe of that place and every place we went," said Stinson.

Local musician Paul Metsa says he used to hang out with Tom Arnold, who lived across the street from the CC Club while he tried to break into comedy, and David Carr, who wrote for the Twin Cities Reader and later the New York Times, at all night parties Arnold would throw after the bar closed.

"I would say that the CC Club is not only one of the best bars in Minneapolis. It was kind of the shining jewel in a way of south Minneapolis, really. I always considered it kind of the soul of south Minneapolis," said Metsa.

The CC Club has changed very little since its heyday and regulars say that's part of its enduring appeal, having a cold one while sharing stories about the bar's history they hope will last another 90 years.

"I won't be here, but I hope it does. I hope the boat is still floating," said Johnson.