Gay 90’s Sale Finalizing: New Ownership Caps Three-Decade Bloom Era

By Lavender February 29, 2008

Categories: Uncategorized


Just as this issue went to press, in an exclusive to Lavender—he wanted the story to break first in the gay media—Gay 90’s owner Mike Bloom announced that he is in the process of finalizing sale of the bar. It’s the latest in a series of events that have transformed the Twin Cities gay bar scene markedly since 2006. Although many details of the sale—most notably, the new ownership—cannot be made public immediately for legal reasons, it’s clear that the Gay 90’s is about to change hands for the first time in nearly three decades.

Photo by George Holdgrafer

According to Bloom, the new ownership has assured him that the venerable Downtown Minneapolis landmark will remain what it has been for five decades: a bar serving primarily the gay community. As well, he relates, the present staff will remain in place after the transition, with the exception of Bloom and longtime manager Joey Yankovich, both of whom are retiring.

As Bloom recounts, “Joey, who turned 70 last July, came to me one day, and said he wanted to retire. The next day, as fate would have it, even though I hadn’t been looking to sell or retire, someone contacted me inquiring about purchasing the bar. They turned out to be the right buyer, who would keep it in the gay community. My wife, Mary, and I will miss our staff and our customers at the Gay 90’s very much, but I told her it was time to sell, and she agreed.”

In 1957, the Happy Hour opened as a gay bar. Despite its name, the original Gay 90’s next door was a straight club until 1975, when it went gay and acquired the Happy Hour. Bloom’s parents, Mort and Marcia Bloom, bought the establishment in 1979. Over the years, the Blooms expanded the premises to encompass the entire upstairs (most of which is now the La Femme Show Lounge) and adjoining space at Fourth and Hennepin (presently the Dance Annex and Men’s Room). The Gay 90’s is now the largest gay entertainment complex in the Upper Midwest.

Watch upcoming issues of Lavender for more news about the pending sale of the Gay 90’s, as well as a feature about the outstanding legacy of the Blooms in the local gay community.

18 Responses to Gay 90’s Sale Finalizing: New Ownership Caps Three-Decade Bloom Era

  1. Interested says:

    What ever happened to the big remodeling plans announced a while ago?

  2. My BIG hope is that they actually clean the place up, and work at repairing the complex’s reputation in the gay community. When ever I mention the 90’s in a gay crowd, someone always pipes in that the place is to straight for him, or to “urban.”

    I have very fond memories of the 90’s, since it was the first (and only) gay bar that I was able to sneak into before I was 21. The back bar, called the Men’s Room, was also by first exposure to the local leather scene.

    In the late 1990s (ironically) the bar appeared to attract a more straight crowd with the increasing popularity of drags shows, thanks to movies like Too Wong Foo and Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert. It appeared that there was a disproportionate number of straight girls (often in bridal parties) bringing in uncomfortable boyfriends who didn’t always get along well with the gay clientele. With other nearby bars, the Eagle/Bolt and Saloon, not to mention the somewhat cleaned up Brass Rail, most of the gay boys fled the ’90s for more comfortable environment.

    Now this isn’t to say that the 90’s ever really stopped being a gay bar. I was there one time last year (I seem to end up there about once a year) and their appeared to be plenty of gay men and women there. The upstairs was dominated by the La Femme drag show, but even the upstairs dance bar got busy later at night. The rest of the complex, including the Dance Annex bar, their main disco, appeared only moderately busy that night, as opposed to the barely-able-to-move crowd of the mid-1990’s.

    What does this mean for the future of the Gay 90’s? Who knows. I can only hope that the new owners actively repair it’s reputation, do some physical improvements to each of the complex’s bars, and continue to improve the Twin Cities changing GLBT entertainment landscape.

  3. Travis D says:

    “A bar serving primarily the gay community” Since when? For several years now this has been the bar for straight kids coming in from the suburbs looking to “expand their minds” or the constant flow of bachelorette parties looking to wear a veil and get a stiff drink.

  4. Gimme a break says:

    Since when does Lavender consider the Blooms having an “outstanding legacy” in the community? Oh yeah, since the Gay 90s became Lavender advertisers.

  5. Jared says:

    Well I heard this news and I had mixed feelings. My initial feeling was one of excitement that maybe the bar will finally clean up its space, remodel and get rid of the smell. There is a small nervous feeling as well that the change will change the “feel” I enjoy. I have been frequenting the 90’s for many years; first started sneaking in when I wasn’t even 18, it was the place for “bois” to be on a Sunday night. Then the 90’s became something more to me, it became “my bar”. I performed drag on Tuesdays a few times, competed in the weekly competition, and became friends with many of the “girls of la femme”, along with the bar staff. Despite its ragged looks and distinct odor, I still find myself most comfortable in this bar over any other bar in the area. Its doors are open to anyone who wants to come in, and not to mention the shows are great, along with the staff.

    As for the 90’s reputation, this is a new page; the new owners could turn it either way. If I am not mistaken, rumor (we all love those) has it that the 90’s wasn’t allowed to advertise in Lavender. This changed recently, what promted the change I don’t know, but it is my understanding that the 90’s has always wanted to advertise, but was turned away.

    I also know the 90’s is sponsoring a softball team this spring in the TCGSL league, getting their name back out there is a great step.

    The gay community has wanted to be accepted and welcomed, which I feel is the case at the 90’s. Yes straight suburbanites show up, and yes they are usually in bridal parties, but so be it. Just because it is a “gay” bar doesn’t mean we should turn them away, let them have a good time. That is one of the things about Minneapolis I love, our bars are mixed nicely into the scene, unlike other cities that have a “district” such as boystown.

    I hope the new owners step up to the plate and do it right. Either way, my mind is made up – I know where I am going tonight, for a good show and a nice stiff drink!

  6. Brent S says:

    I haven’t been to the 90’s for probably 5 years or more. To me, the place feels scummy and dirty. When I used to go there, I litteraly felt dirty when I left. Also, the overly straight crowd doesn’t help. I once saw a guy get punched in the face, knocked out cold, with blood coming from his nose and mouth. He would’ve aspirated on his own blood and died had I not rolled him on his side and called 911 (all for trying to pick someone up he didn’t know was straight!)

    Soon to be former owners, the Blooms, turned their backs on the gay community, they DO NOT have an “outstanding legacy” as Lavender put it! They HAVE a “Legacy”, but not a good one. I’m sure they won’t be missed when they leave the bar scene. I once remarked to friends that I would love to see the place meet “The wrecking ball!” I would’ve been there to watch it crumble.

    Whoever the future owners are, they have an uphill climb to try to repair the reputation of The 90’s within the gay community. As far as the “Bridal Parties”: Please, please, please, stop letting them in!!!! They don’t belong in ANY gay bar!

  7. Brandyn says:

    I hope they make the place better, The Gay 90’s was the first gay bar I ever went to and it is still one of my favorite hang outs, years later.

    I also think they should clean up the place a bit… not to say much but Bloom didn’t seem to take care of it, that sign out front flashes on one side while not the other, it’s been like that for as long as I can remember…maybe it was made that way, I don’t know but it looks tacky to me, seems like they didn’t have enough money to fix it or something…

    Also I hope they take old piano bar that was closed down years ago and do something with it… perhaps live music or something… I think that would be cool.

  8. C says:

    I am quiet curious to see what happens next with the new ownership as well.

    Not to say that the The Blooms haven’t poured their heart and soul into the 90s and the gay community, because they clearly have. Maybe some of you are too young to remember they started Healing of the Hearts, running the block parties for Gay Pride, becoming the only straight couple ever to be grand marshalls of the gay pride parade to list a few…

    They could’ve sold it to anyone that chose to knock it down and make a hotel but still found the respect to make sure the new owners kept it a gay bar and that the employees all were able to keep their jobs.

    How can anyone deny 30 years in business in Minneapolis is an accomplishment enough!

    You would think we would be preaching less judgement and more tolerance.

    Anyway, life is too short. I thank the Blooms for all the good years and wish the new owners the best of luck!

    We ALL have had priceless memories at the 90s and if you say you havent you are lying or maybe too drunk to remember!

  9. John K says:

    I guarantee that if the new owners polish this up, it will look like an entirely new building. The ornamental facade is gorgeous and I love the sign. Everyone knos that sign. As a straight guy, I understand the relevance this building has had within the city, not just the gay/bi orientation, and really hope the new owners restore it with this in mind. It should stand proud, not hide behind mismatched curtains and a layer of dust.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Why are people always complaining about the ’90s being “straight”. It still has an OVERWHELMINGLY gay clientele. If you want to be accepted if you ever go to a “straight” bar, you should welcome a few hags and friends into the gay scene! And for the “urban” complaints.. give me a break.

    Any doozle, I look forward too seeing what happens with the 90s. As long as it keeps the queens, good dancing, and bomb-ass Long Islands I’ll still be coming 🙂

  11. sean80 says:

    Un cleaned/updated version of the 90s could be legendary! Although I just hope this actually happens as there has been a whole lot of talk these past few years.

  12. Michael Teale says:

    I just learned this morning from someone in the poz chat room on that the ’90s had been sold. This was surprising news to me since I spent most of my 20’s in that place. I made a lot of friends there. But in the late 90’s, the str8’s starting coming into the bar and basically drove the gay community out. That was the last time I was in that bar. I started hanging out at the Saloon down the street from the 90s and felt much better being there. I still miss all the fun times I had up in Mpls, but I’m older now and tired of the bar scene and the games that are played in the bars. Too many head games in the bars. I’m much happier staying home these days.

    Michael A. Teale
    St. Louis, Missouri

  13. thomas wik says:

    the 90’s will be fine and I forsee it staying as a gay bar. Im getting old though in gay years haha im 31 but the bf is 22 going on 23. But we go out once a week or so. being an interracial couple we like the hip hop crowd downstairs and I feel its one of the most open minded. as far as racial but all in all i like the 90’s then prolly the bolt. Good luck to the new 90’s owner in his adventures u have a loyal patron and couple in us. peace

    thomas a. wik, jr
    mpls, mn

  14. Emily says:

    Personally, I enjoy the 90’s but I didn’t start going there until two years ago so I have no idea how it was prior to that.
    That being said, for those of you who are “protesting” the bar because it’s full of straight people … maybe if you went, it would be a little bit more of a real gay bar.
    I’m looking forward to seeing what the new owners do to the place. As long as the drinks stay wicked strong, I’m all for cleaning it up a bit.

  15. han vilai says:

    I am straight and I love this place its full of life straight, or gay whatever its beautiful. The people there that runs the place are doing a fantastic job great staff! Change is great and I am looking forward to the new and improve 90s!!! I want to say that I really feel accepted even if I am not gay I always have a blast, I have friends that are gay and its more of if you respect yourself you respect the gay community I want to say THANKS YOU to the 90s for all the great years and more to come and embracing life period!!!!

  16. han vilai says:

    ….cont. its Han, again I am so excited the changes are going to be nothing but FABOLOUS!!!!! YAY!


  17. Troy Daggett says:

    I wish the new owner(s) the best of luck. I worked for the Blooms at the Gay 90s from 1989 to 1995 I would be lieing if I said I didn’t have many fond memories of my time there. It was also a time of great change.
    When I began working there in 1989 it really was a family, the group of employee’s was really great and everyone looked after one another. In my opinion due to more than one factor (which I won’t mention publicly) things changed and by late 1993 the magic was gone. They began hiring mainly straights and the magic and close knit group that once made the place run like a well oiled machine diappeared. The former comradery and good work ethics we had before was gone and The whole atmosphere changed.
    If those walls really could talk oh boy!

  18. Trish says:

    Quite frankly the “integration” idea and plan the started happening in about 1994 in my opinion was a big mistake. And I am really suprised from a financial standpoint especially.
    Back when I worked there, during the days when the place was so packed on weekends it was like a sea of people, literally thats what it looked like from the bartenders side of the bar. I know what the till rings were back then and it was a staggering amount on a Friday or Saturday night.
    Why risk that? Furthurmore we always had straight couples, singles, bisexuals, whatever…I waited on many many and things were fine, no problems.
    98% of the bars in Minneapolis & St. Paul are mainstream and cater mainly to straight people and for one of the four or five gay clubs in Minneapolis, and the largest square footage wise to start hiring mainly straights really was a mistake.
    It ruined the comradery among employees, it hurt moral, work ethics were no longer appreciated, poor hiring decisions happened and changed things forever.
    I appreciate the experience I gained while working at the cha cha palace, I went on to own several businesses of my own and aquire income property. I have reflected back on my experience many times for guidance in my own business. So thanks Joey & Mike!

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