This article originally appeared in the December 6th issue of The Villager.
Wild Tymes, the bar and restaurant at 33 W. Seventh Place, closed for good on November 26 to make way for the expansion of Palace Theatre Operations, the partnership of Minneapolis-based First Avenue and Chicago-based Jam Productions which manages the Palace Theater next door.
The Palace, which was built as a vaudeville stage in 1916 and is now owned by the city of St. Paul, reopened late last winter as a live musical venue following a city-financed $15.66 million renovation. First Avenue also owns the Turf Club on University Avenue in St. Paul’s Midway area and 7th Street Entry, the Depot Tavern and First Avenue nightclub in downtown Minneapolis.
“We became interested in the (Wild Tymes space) as we were working on the Palace Theater,” said Nate Kranz, general manager of both First Avenue and Palace Theater Operations. “Five years ago, when we started getting serious about the Palace project, we made it known to the building management and the city that we’d be interested in that space after the Palace opened. Last March we started pretty serious negotiations with the landlord. We just see it as a complementary business to the theater.”
According to Kranz, Palace Theater Operations approached Wild Tymes’ landlord Kelly Brothers Investments and negotiated the condition for a 90-day notice that could be issued to Wild Tymes to vacate the premises. The bar and restaurant will be undergoing extensive renovations in the months ahead with the goal of reopening on May 1, he said.
“We’re meeting with all of the principals for the first time on Friday,” Kranz said. “We’ve been through there and got an architect to start working on drawings, but we got to finalize what we really want to do with the space.”
Wild Tymes has been a venue for live music for nearly 15 years, hosting bands, karaoke and a cabaret. Palace’s plan is to use the space as a bar and restaurant that does not have live entertainment, according to Kranz. “(First Avenue) has plenty of live music spaces,” he said, “including operations that support the same capacity as Wild Tymes.”
Wild Tymes employees are encouraged to apply for jobs at the as-yet unnamed establishment, Kranz added. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any work for them in the meantime because there are a lot of things in the space that desperately need attention,” he said. “We couldn’t have stayed open and done all of the improvements we want to do.”
Wild Tymes’ patrons learned of the closing through a message posted on the bar and restaurant’s Facebook page on November 26. It said, “Thank you all for making Wild Tymes your neighborhood bar over the years. While we are saddened to be closing, we will forever take with us the friendships we’ve made and cherish the memories of the Wild Tymes we’ve spent together.”
Wild Tymes “has been a community, and that’s what’s going away,” said longtime patron Barb Jensen. “They take care of us, they’re our friends, and that’s the heartbreak. We’re not losing a place to go as much as the community.”
“It’s a real Cheers bar, and I’m gonna miss it,” said patron Jim Wilzbacher, who lives downtown.
Wild Tymes was also notable for its long-running open-mic night. Nii Mensah hosted the event every Wednesday from 2015 until its final evening last month.
“We were fortunate to get a good group of folks every week,” he said. “There were duos, singer-songwriters, slam-style poetry, progressive metal, rock, punk. It was a good place for Twin Cities artists to polish their shoes and start walking, and feeling like you had a role to play in their journey was rewarding.”
Wild Tymes was also involved in the St. Paul Winter Carnival—the Vulcan Krewe were frequent visitors—and it hosted a special St. Patrick’s Day events. “I’ve had lots of conversations with the Winter Carnival people,” Kranz said. “And we always do St. Patrick’s Day stuff, so I assume we’re gonna continue working with those and lots of other St. Paul groups. This year was challenging, in that we were just getting the Palace Theater up and running. But looking forward, we have lots of plans, both at the Palace Theater and the Wild Tymes space.”