The Hot Spot leaves Dinkytown

Donation-only internet café hopes to relocate on the West Bank.

by Tara Bannow

As he watched thousands of students pass his window after the Gophers football game two weeks ago, Dave Nutt said he felt down and out. âÄúNot one of them wanted to walk in here, not a one,âÄù said Nutt, the manager of The Hot Spot , a Christian Internet music café in Dinkytown. âÄúThey see the stuff outside and itâÄôs actually like a repellent. TheyâÄôre scared.âÄù The Hot Spot, a donor-supported venue for prayer, free coffee, wireless internet, support group meetings and live music, is leaving its prominent Dinkytown location âÄî a side effect of about a $1,000 increase in monthly rent, founder John Tolo said. For nearly three years, the spot, geared toward young adults, has thrived entirely on donations and help from about 30 unpaid volunteers who kept it open from 9 a.m. until as late as midnight almost every day. Plans are in the works to move into the basement of Lovepower Church on the West Bank, a larger space with more room for events and bands. âÄúI like that itâÄôs going to be easier to pay our bills,âÄù Tolo said. The Hot Spot has already begun holding its nightly support group meetings âÄî including Alcoholics Anonymous , Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery âÄî on the churchâÄôs third floor. LovepowerâÄôs building owner is still apprehensive about letting The Hot Spot sign a lease, Rick Larson , a pastor at the church, said. âÄúHe likes money,âÄù Larson said, âÄújust like any businessman does.âÄù The two groups share a common vision as they both want to reach out to the community, including University students and the homeless, Larson said. âÄúWeâÄôre just going to try to work hand in hand,âÄù he said. Irv Hershkovitz , co-owner of the Dinkytown building, said The Hot Spot has had trouble with funding from day one. âÄúI didnâÄôt see it lasting,âÄù he said. The decision to move was mutual, he said. âÄúWe pretty much said âÄòyou need to put a lease together and know where your funding is coming from or itâÄôs not going to work,âÄôâÄù he said. In the past year, the Minneapolis Police Department responded to over 30 calls to The Hot Spot building, some of which may have been unrelated to The Hot Spot. About 90 percent of the incidents were intoxicated people who entered The Hot Spot and then passed out, Tolo said. In some cases, people would come from nearby bars and volunteers would convince them not to drive, he said. A few times, Tolo said he called the police to report drug dealers or fights in front of the building. The primary goal of The Hot Spot is to create a safe, sober environment for young adults, Tolo said. âÄúWe love doing what weâÄôre doing at the University,âÄù he said, âÄúWe came to basically connect with young adults and have a healthy community alternative.âÄù Janie Lalor, a 55-year-old volunteer, said nothing is more rewarding than helping someone in pain. âÄúIâÄôve seen people come in here and their clothes are ripped and you can see that thereâÄôs things that might be bothering them mentally,âÄù she said. âÄúWe pray for them and watch things get better.âÄù Lalor, a volunteer since August, said sheâÄôs seen people who were homeless or addicted to drugs and alcohol turn their lives around because of The Hot Spot. âÄúThereâÄôs no judgment of anyone here,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs come as you are.âÄù Nutt, a cocaine addict for 18 years, said he helps people with chemical dependency by using himself as an example of recovery. âÄúA lot of us donâÄôt even believe that God accepts us with all of our different issues,âÄù he said. Although itâÄôs difficult to leave behind the Dinkytown locals, Tolo said heâÄôs confident many will find their way to the new location. âÄúBecause we have such a strong following now, and a foundation, I think weâÄôll do very well,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm very optimistic.âÄù