Palmer’s Bar fundraiser aids reopening

After closing in November, the West Bank mainstay plans to reopen with help from several community fundraisers.

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Jasmine Webber

Tony Zaccardi, the curent owner of Palmer’s Bar, poses for a portrait outside of the bar on Monday, March 1. Palmer’s Bar will reopen sometime within the next few weeks.

Lydia Morrell

Over the past year, customers of Palmer’s Bar have found unique ways to support the West Bank locale, from hosting art auctions to purchasing old pieces of the building.

Longtime customer Andrew Buechler bought a Palmer’s ceiling tile, removed from the building last July, during a previous fundraising effort.

He laughed as he read from the note attached to the tile, “It represents approximately 70 years of decadence, lost memories and an immeasurable amount of cigarette smoke.”

Palmer’s Bar has stayed closed to keep employees healthy and save money since the governor’s restaurant shutdown last November. Now, the popular West Bank bar is about to reopen in the next few weeks with the help of more than $20,000 from community donations and proceeds from the “Art as Dirty As It Looks” online auction.

Shaleen Meyer, a regular customer, set up a Facebook donation page that reached nearly $22,000 in a little over two weeks. The donation page is still open, and more than 400 people have contributed to the fund.

“It was cool to see everybody coming together and to see how positive of an effect it had for everybody as well, because it’s a way to help out when there’s little you can do to help,” Meyer said.

The money will go toward bills, payroll and restocking the bar, owner Tony Zaccardi said. While he has received some aid, he said Palmer’s Bar missed out on the latest $15,000 COVID-19 relief payment because of an issue with the application — so the fundraiser was a welcome surprise.

“[Meyer] paid out a portion of it to me today, and I was in tears,” Zaccardi said. “Knowing that there’s so much support for me and for this bar, it’s pretty mind-blowing.”

Each auctioned piece starts at $5 and if it is not purchased, Zaccardi said he would donate it. Some of the artwork comes from the walls around the bar, some is from the previous owner’s collection and others will be from donations.

“I think there’s going to be some nostalgia pieces in there for folks that they might want to jump at and it’s all being done with the best intentions,” Zaccardi said.

The site hosts everything from a sledding toboggan to a grizzly bear mirror.

Zaccardi plans to open the doors in two to three weeks. He said he was waiting to open the bar until more vaccines are distributed and the weather warms up so that customers can comfortably use the patio to socially distance.

Palmer’s Bar reopened after the initial shut down in March 2020, but closed down again in November because of Gov. Tim Walz’s mandate. Zaccardi said he did not reopen right away in December because of pandemic concerns.

Within this time, Zaccardi has explored alternative ways of keeping the bar afloat during closures. He has been selling Palmer’s Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, ceiling tiles and coloring books, to name a few.

Zaccardi said people have been excited to purchase “a little piece of history from this place” because of the deep-rooted sense of community of the bar. Palmer’s was established in 1906, and some customers have been coming for decades.

“It’s just a home for so many people or was a home for so many people in the ’80s, in the ’90s or in the ’60s,” Zaccardi said. “There’s just a lot of lore and love in this crazy, tiny little room.”