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Rocket Bar Renovation

The ragged building at 208 E. First St. in Downtown Duluth is being gutted of debris in preparation for renovation. Bob Monahan and his father, Robert H. R. Monahan, plan to open an “artist friendly” cafe/lounge on the main floor later this year, with a recording studio in the basement level. They have already replaced the roof on the 127-year-old building, which they are in the process of acquiring from Jack Arnold through a contract-for-deed agreement.

Bob Monahan is owner of Chaperone Records in Duluth. He is pictured above in the dank and dusty basement space that will be Chaperone’s new studio and offices.

Monahan said the main level (pictured below) will be an arts venue that serves food and drinks.

“Music will be a focus, but I want the space to be available to anybody with any sort of artistic vision,” he said. “Whether they want to put on theater or film or fashion or spoken word … so it’s a multidimensional dynamic.”

He said he’s “struggling mightily” to come up with a good name. A few on the list of options include: The Handsome Squid, Jetsam and Flotsam, Regulars and South of the Border.

The 2,800-square-foot building has been mostly vacant in recent years. It’s best known as the Rocket Bar, which operated there from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s. It was also the Hippo Restaurant in the early 1980s.

Here’s a cool car that’s temporarily in storage there:

The building has been referenced once before on Perfect Duluth Day, three years ago in the post “What’s wrong with this picture?

And apparently the Lake Superior Fish Co. operated out of the building in 1913, according to this advertisement from the Duluth News Tribune.

42 Comment(s)

  1. I hope they serve food late. That’s what is missing in downtown. I don’t want a slice of pizza. I don’t want casino food. A late-night bistro would be killer.

    De man | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  2. The Chaperone.

    vicarious | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  3. I remember stopping in a couple of times at the Hippo- I think it was the first restaurant in town that served sprouts on a sandwich. I recall one day when the dishwasher sat out front and openly smoked a joint on his break. As for names, I like “The Rocket” or you could go with “The Chaperone.”

    TimK | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  4. Is that the same Model T that was stored in attic of Carlson’s Book and Records?

    Slim Jimmy M | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  5. Is that the same car that used to be upstairs at Carlson’s?

    hbh1 | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  6. Minds influenced by Bob Carlson think alike, I guess. I don’t know if that’s the same car or not.

    I can emphasize that Bob Monahan said the old Rocket Bar name is not being considered for the new place.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  7. I’ll bet Rod Raymond would name the place the Rocket!

    Slim Jimmy M | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  8. As far as names go, I will throw my suggestion into the hat:

    “The Electric Teakettle”

    Dorkus | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  9. The Gentleman Cephalopod (with a monocle)!!! :D

    BadCat! | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  10. Bob Dylan’s Lift Bridge Armory.

    Jake | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  11. One of my favorite all-time bar names was (and it might still exist, I don’t know) a place somewhere in the vicinity of Wisconsin Dells called the Wet Spot. Classy.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  12. The Kozy.

    Ramos | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  13. Perhaps the new lounge should be called the Goldish Room (I just added a little more historical info to the bottom of the post.)

    Some random notes from PDD’s Fairy Research Spy:

    There was an eight-room boarding house at 208 E. First St. in 1901. It was listed for rent in the Duluth News Tribune for $18.

    In 1902, the Goldish family moved a building there and started advertising fresh fish.

    In 1910, the address was listed for rent, recommended for use as a grocery store.

    In 1912, the Goldish family announced the opening of the new Lake Superior Fish Market. The family had its own steamer on Lake Superior, and there are more stories surrounding that than we can even begin to get into.

    Top photo from the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.

    Bottom photo from the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.

    Read the book The Shipwrecks of Lake Superior for specifics, but in summary I’ll just note that Samuel Goldish is credited with saving 31 lives on Lake Superior, which is quite a record for a civilian.

    By the way, Lake Superior Fish Co. was sold to Sivertson Fisheries in the 1960s and still exists, now at 1507 N. First St. in Superior.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  14. Keep the wooden bench/pew shown in the picture with Bob! Also, I dislike all said options for names. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it. But The Chaperone would fit handsomely. So excited to see it completed.

    CLeTa | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  15. You should call it Puzzles.

    Icantbelieveitsnotben | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  16. Here’s a glimpse of the Rocket sign in a Canal Park scrapyard after the bar closed:

    akjuneau | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  17. One of my hometown bars: Liquor Hole. And yes, there is a tongue in the logo on the sign outside the place. Uber classy.

    spy1 | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  18. Bob Goldish could klezmer all of us under the table.

    baci | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  19. “The Chaperone” is a good name, otherwise “Jetsam and Flotsam” is a good alternative too.

    taigagreen | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  20. More on the Goldish. Seriously, Dr. Robert Goldish could blow some mean Yiddish sax.

    baci | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  21. Body Filler Lounge

    Bret | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  22. Zenith City of the Unsalted Sea Fishmonger Eatery and Lounge

    Bret | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  23. Goldish Garage

    Bret | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  24. The more I think about it the more I believe the name should be shortened to just the Flotsam Lounge. It sounds cool and the reference to ship wreckage would be a vague but suitable enough tip of the hat to the Goldish family. There should be cocktails called the Hippo and the Rocket.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 12, 2013 | New Comment
  25. Monahan and Son. And maybe add “tavern” or “refreshments” or some such thing.

    But it will just be “Bobs” to all of the cool cats who come to the back door or navigate the twisted tunnel secret entrance from Dick’s (which should definitely be in the plans, by the way).

    I know another PDD type was looking at the space for a coffee bar a few years ago, and I think Speedy Wienie might’ve even been mentioned as a potential tenant before that, but the muttering pitchman never really specified an address so I might’ve had it wrong. Whatever they name it I’m so glad to see someone doing something with it.

    Competition will be fierce in fall and winter and cut-throat in the summer. Hopefully they do good and do well. It will be hard. Having an in-house record label will probably help. It’s like being a brewpub for a hook. Only without all of the pipes.

    wildgoose | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  26. Once a Rocket Bar, always the Rocket Bar.

    adam | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  27. My favorite bar name is “The Whiskey Priest.” It is/was an Irish bar in Hong Kong. I had the best grilled cheese sandwich in the world there.

    I like the Chaperone and the Flotsam as well. On the other hand, I’m usually asleep by 8 p.m. so my vote actually isn’t that helpful.

    emmadogs | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  28. Whatever it’s called, I’m really looking forward to it opening. It’s right around the block from my office! Oh, and do go with a good, quality Art Deco look!

    Bret | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  29. flotsam |ˈflätsəm|
    the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea. Compare with jetsam.
    • people or things that have been rejected and are regarded as worthless: the room was cleared of boxes and other flotsam.

    “Jetsam and Flotsam” was actually an extemporaneous joke, but “Flotsam-” as in, The Flotsam Lounge or Flotsam Café- in all of it’s sonic godawful-ness, has a certain ring to it. But, as for how “Flotsam” would look on that sign…and branding?? UGHH.

    brautigan | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  30. Oh Oh! Thanks for all the support and/or feedback! It’s going to be a weird year, to be sure.

    brautigan | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  31. The Rocket Club is already playing this weekend at Lutsen, whom I can verily testify did not get 23″ as counted by them yesterday morning, though it is my favorite number, which is probably why I went. Note to tree skiers today: I hit it pretty good yesterday, most of the giant board tracks you see on the steep end pockets, that was me.

    And Lutsen, it just snowed a foot, turn off your snowmachines.

    Monahan is like a beaming ray of light in this town, so whatever he comes up with for the name, is one I heartily recommend. How about the Rocket Loon, Loon Lounge or the Cold War Club? The Stalin Place?

    Until next time Lutsen.

    Herzog | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  32. The Rocket Lounge.

    -Berv | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  33. The Rocket Lounge.

    Bret | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  34. Herzog is Burly’s less poetic cousin.

    vicarious | Feb 13, 2013 | New Comment
  35. You need me to rhyme more Vic, why dong you just say so?

    Daisies and Fairies are my friends

    Beating on ducks to make amends.

    I think you saw it here first, I planted the idea in Berv’s head for Rocket Lounge, Bob will only get credit for creating and financing the thing.

    Herzog | Feb 14, 2013 | New Comment
  36. Let’s call it cooperation. No, let’s call it Shirley.

    -Berv | Feb 14, 2013 | New Comment
  37. He played a mean clarinet- sax too??

    lauriejo57 | Feb 14, 2013 | New Comment
  38. Beef Lounge

    Herzog | Feb 16, 2013 | New Comment
  39. Could have been just clarinet … I know I saw him play with a klezmer group a few times and was thoroughly impressed.

    baci | Feb 16, 2013 | New Comment
  40. Jack Rabbit Slims! Can there be a slot car track and girls of roller skates too! Buddy Mother-upping-Hollie

    Hair of the Monk | Feb 19, 2013 | New Comment
  41. Don’t be a square daddio! | Feb 21, 2013 | New Comment
  42. Here’s the latest from Fox 21 News.

    Paul Lundgren | Sep 11, 2013 | New Comment

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