Flame Café and Night Club

Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis

Flame Café and Night Club

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407, United States

Created By: Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District


1523 Nicollet Avenue, Corner of Nicollet and E 16th Street

At first glance, the one-story media documentation company on the corner of Nicollet and East 16th Street looks mundane, but the flashes of Art Deco styling and round windows reveal that more lies beneath the surface. Built in 1938, this building once held a unique night club in Minneapolis history, the Flame Bar and Café. The Flame was an odd almost schizophrenic establishment with a continually shifting identity.

Owned by former muscle with mob ties, a pair of men named Abe and Ray whose back office featured a photograph of the two of them straddling an old prohibition-era roadster holding Tommy Guns, for many decades in the mid-20th century the Flame was a refuge for musicians and scenesters at the end of Nicollet Avenue.

Throughout the '40s and '50s, the Flame, with its two large stages, was known for being the heart of the Country and Western scene in downtown Minneapolis. In those days, the bar was run by a strong woman named Ardis Wells, a former female wrestler and circus performer who was adept at handling the rough edges of the crowds. After all, she had ridden elephants, so jockeying with country acts was not a stretch for her. One of the stages was literally on top of the bar, so that cowboy hat-wearing acts like The Rhythm Ranch Girls would dance and play with their boots skimming the tops of liquor bottles.

In later years--the bar closed in 1980--the Flame became a rare establishment that hosted both black and white musical acts, as half the place would host country music and the other half was increasingly devoted to R&B bands that became the basis for “the Minneapolis Sound” that led eventually to musicians like Prince and Morris Day, and the Time.


This point of interest is part of the tour: Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis


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