Live Downtown: The ghosts of Pioneers past


Live Downtown seems to have gotten its new signage at some point between last Friday night and today.

I spent just under half of my nonwaking, nonsleeping recreational hours in this space on West 1st St. for much of my late 20s. When I’d take out-of-town friends to the then Pioneer, they would always ask what I liked so much about the bar. This question would crop up about midway through a sponge bath in hand sanitizer. Right before they realized that the patented Pioneer smell is a tricky one to get out of one’s pores.

I would always say that it was like hanging out in a really good friend’s basement. A place where you are comfortable enough to make popcorn, abuse the karaoke machine, or crank up the space heater in the women’s bathroom.

Aesthetically, I liked what happened to the bar when it was Oly’s. They put a big window in the back, facing the wooden staircase a patron can use when she wants to feel like she’s going down to a speakeasy. They also put a window in front, and really there is no better channel than 1st St. TV. They had wifi. (Although no one could ever remember the password). They got rid of the wrestling mat flooring in the back half of the bar. I wonder if that was installed for insurance purposes. I did see some heated exchanges in my Pioneer days).

I went to this bar — now called Live Downtown — on Friday night. It was pretty busy. Granted, I was with a group of at least 15-20 people. Live Downtown is promising live music six nights a week, including karaoke and open mic, local bands and national acts. They have also ix-nayed the sports bar motif, which should be a golden rule of bar ownership: (When in doubt, less sports bar motif. Assume that niche is being covered somewhere else). 

It’s still a little bit like hanging out in a good friend’s basement. Although, more like after you’ve both gone off to college and haven’t seen each other in years.

One thought on “Live Downtown: The ghosts of Pioneers past

  1. In the early 90s “The Pile” was also a Duluth cop hang out AND a great underage bar.

    Of course, no bar was as great as The Warehouse in Canal Park. Speaking of underage hangouts…

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