The Real Minneapolis Dating Scene


CCN reporter Sarah Stanley Ayre (right) wrote about her experience with the Minneapolis night life in her response to a New York Times article. (Photo: Submitted by Stanley-Ayre)

By Sarah Stanley-Ayre

I recently stumbled across a New York Times article, published in early October, attempting to detail the Minnesota nightlife and dating scene. The article, titled “The Dating Scene? Hip, With a Bit of ‘Minnesota Nice,’” depicts our city as a metropolis teeming with hipsters who migrated here from the suburbs and who, despite yearning for a long-term, serious relationship, settle instead for nights of hard drinking at various bars in uptown and short-lived casual romantic encounters. It also laments the looming threat of an increasing presence of “Chads and Brads,” described as “a guy wearing a polo, like the ‘Jersey Shore’ look.”

What is Minnesota nice, anyway? Isn’t it more like Minnesota passive aggressive?

The article quotes 27 year-old bouncer and construction worker Garrett Heins, as saying, “Everybody knows everybody. One thing I’d say about Minneapolis is that if you’ve slept with one girl, you know 10 guys she’s slept with, and half of them are your friends, and vice versa for women with guys – that’s just the way it is. You’re not going to worry as much because, ‘Oh, it’s Minneapolis.’ So you can’t harbor hate.”

Now I’m not sure where Garrett spends his time going out on the weekends, or who he typically hangs out with, but I certainly don’t know 10 people that the guy I’m sleeping with now has slept with. In fact, I’m not so sure I’ve even met any of the other women he’s slept with in the past. Granted, I have been in recent situations where the person I was sleeping with had slept with one or maybe even two people I was acquainted with or even considered friends. However, this provided for an uncomfortable and awkward situation. Can any of us truly use the “Oh, it’s Minneapolis,” excuse to brush off those feelings?

The writer of the article ventured to a couple of popular uptown bars to conduct his research, namely Mortimers and the C.C. Club. He also spent a Friday night at Club Jager, somehow finding a “Minnesota nice” vibe there (too bad he didn’t wind up there during Transmission, when the goths come out to play).

The patrons he spoke to at Mortimers (which I guess does have okay pinball machines) dismissed the downtown nightlife scene as “characterized by $15 cocktails and women in short sequined skirts.” What they neglected to mention is the vibrant scene downtown at First Avenue, where friends and I have gone to purchase many affordable mixed drinks and $15 bottles of cheap champagne while having an amazing time seeing live acts such as The Kills, Wavves, James Blake, Animal Collective and Crystal Castles, as well as many local bands and hip hop artists like P.O.S. and Dessa. I can’t remember anyone wearing sequined skirts. Sequined pants, maybe.

That isn’t to say that, walking down 1st Avenue on a Saturday night, you won’t see tons of practically naked women, teetering in sky-high heels, lurching from clubs such as Aqua towards Pizza Luce on 3rd Street for a drunken slice of pizza after bar close. You may, however, be watching this scene from venues like the recently opened Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, on 3rd Street. This is where I was, on a date, last month during Terma Festival, a goth/industrial/darkwave music event where patrons, dressed overwhelmingly in matte black, gathered to see local acts like Claps and The Funeral and the Twilight, and out-of-town artists including Youth Code and White Car. No ‘Chads’ or ‘Brads’ dressed in polos. No sequined skirts. Just an eclectic collection of friends and strangers alike, enjoying affordable drinks and good music. The conversations overheard outside while smoking  cigarettes ranged from intellectual debates to openly (intelligent) flirtatious banter.

Okay, so maybe those uptown hipsters interviewed for the article just don’t like music. But what also isn’t mentioned anywhere in the article is the gay and lesbian dating scene, at places like the Gay 90’s club. In fact, the only kind of dating mentioned in the article goes on between a man and a woman. Are straight people the only people who are dating in Minneapolis?

I’ve spent nights out dancing with friends at the Gay 90’s, which often offers dollar drink specials. I’ve also found myself meeting new people and engaging in conversation with friendly strangers at The Saloon and the 19 Bar, in Loring Park.

The article mentions various lame attempts at pickup lines being used to “break the ice,” some even intentionally (as a joke to initiate conversation). None of these pickup lines would ever work at these bars with any sane people. If you want to break the ice at a place like the 19 Bar, I would recommend starting with something clever and intelligent. Even an intentionally lame pick-up line would probably only garner you an eye-roll, or maybe a blank stare. From what I’ve seen, most of the gays and lesbians in this town know what they want and don’t feel the need to waste time using made-up personas in an attempt to make strangers they meet at bars talk to them. Leave that to the ‘Chads’ and ‘Brads.’

What about areas of Minneapolis other than uptown and downtown? The article briefly mentions the Nomad. I’ve spent many a night on the West Bank, at the Nomad or the Triple Rock, where the recently ended Tuesday two-for-ones night led many a wanton drunk astray to a backdrop of pounding rap songs. I must admit that even I have wound up going home from two-for-ones with someone I’d just met (I used to live just next door to the Nomad). It certainly didn’t result in a relationship, though, or anything even closely resembling a dating situation.

Free shows at the Hexagon draw large crowds of what the New York Times article’s interviewees try to emulate: the real hipsters of this city. (In this case, I’m not saying ‘hipster’ like its a bad thing). Nearby Memory Lanes hosts local bands who provide a soundtrack for punk rock bowling. Minneapolis is home to an abundance of underground venues, which I won’t name in this article, where people go to dance, drink, see live music, meet and mingle. There are places in Northeast like the Vegas Lounge, a great spot for karaoke, and Psycho Suzi’s, where a friend of mine, who also goes to MCTC, says he would most likely go when looking to meet potential dates. I’m not super familiar with any bars in North Minneapolis, or the places dotting Lake Street(aside from Cause, which hosts decent live music fairly often), but I’m pretty confident that the scene at all of these places is vastly different from what’s going on at Mortimers or the C.C. Club.

Anyway, there are some aspects of the article that I have to agree with. Let me get to this ‘Chad’ and ‘Brad’ idea. I have experienced the phenomenon myself. A couple weeks ago, at Honey in Northeast Minneapolis for the DJ night House Proud, I was dancing next to a friend of mine. A clean-cut dude in his early twenties, wearing a polo shirt and drunken smile, approached me. He proceeded to sidle up next to me and sling his arm across my shoulders. He leered at me in what I’d hazard was an attempt at appearing seductive and, while raising his chin in kind of an over exaggerated reverse nod, drunkenly slurred/shouted the word “Sup?!?!” at me.

I honestly couldn’t stop myself from laughing directly in his face. I sadly recalled the summer days dancing at Honey before the sudden autumn influx of U of M students crawling all over Dinkytown and Northeast. I did the sideways dance/shuffle through the crowd to get away from him as quickly as I could.

I really don’t think these guys are looking for someone to hide inside with all winter drinking hot chocolate and catching up on literature. I think they just want a quick one-night-stand who leaves in the morning without interrupting their fantasy football. Actually, I’m not sure if many of them have even a small shred of sobriety left on a Friday night with which to discern what they want. I guess finally going off to college to get drunk and party is so overwhelmingly awesome that there just isn’t time for inhibitions. I’m just left to wonder: with what girls does this approach actually work? Does it ever work for you, dude?

I was watching an episode of Law & Order yesterday, and a bartender being interrogated on the show referred to some girls at the bar as “WOO-HOO girls.” These are the girls who drink more than they can reasonably manage in one night and end up going “WOO-HOO!!!!” I think I often hear these girls in Dinkytown outside of Blarney’s or The Library. Maybe they help keep the dream alive.

I also agree with Hayley Lindma, who is quoted in the article as saying, “You want to fall in love in winter…Summer’s for flings.” During these ridiculous Minnesota winters, it feels great to have a special somebody to curl up on the couch with to watch movies and hide from the frigid cold. When its snowing and below zero outside, the last thing I have on my mind is going out to meet someone new. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he could tell winter was coming because he had started getting texts from girls he’d casually dated in the past saying things like, “hey how have u been? love 2 hang sum time. xoxo.” The weather here creates loneliness and isolation. Many of us are naturally inclined to reach out to old flames in preparation for the long, cold months to come.

I’m not looking for romance in a bar, though. I’m sad that this article gives the impression that the only way you can meet someone is if you’re out drinking somewhere. I’d rather meet a really interesting, intriguing guy in one of my classes, or strike up a conversation with the mystery man sitting in Espresso Royale reading Infinite Jest. When I’m drunk, I’m not thinking about anything long term. My judgement is impaired and I’m just not able to get a clear impression of whoever’s hitting on me. It may have been fun once, but it certainly isn’t the way I’m trying to start a relationship now. Am I just getting old? Anyway, I don’t even drink anymore. There must be some way to find romance that doesn’t involve hanging out in a bar.

Going out drinking in Uptown isn’t the only way to meet people, and bars aren’t the only dating destinations in this city. I’ve probably been to far more bars in this city than the average 26 year-old, and yet, I still haven’t managed to find love at any of them. Thankfully, Minneapolis is packed with theaters, art galleries, museums, and other places to meet like-minded individuals. It plays host to a variety of fairs, carnivals, and sporting events.

Maybe if you are looking for someone interesting to talk to or perhaps pursue a relationship with, a helpful thing to do would be to open a copy of or the CityPages and pick out a gallery opening or a play to go to. You might check out the Walker on its Target-sponsored free Thursday evenings. There is a free Winter Carnival in January, and free ice skating in downtown St. Paul from Thanksgiving until the end of January. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you actually don’t need alcohol (or even money!) to have a good time and meet friends and potential dates!

Yes, winter is coming. My advice to you single folks out there is, rather than worrying about finding someone to quickly hole up with, take advantage of your cozy indoor time by finishing an important project, indulging in new hobbies and creative activities, finally reading that book you keep putting down, getting an A on the paper you’ve been dreading, learning how to play an instrument, catching up on movies, writing letters to family and friends, learning how to cook, pampering yourself with hot baths, and spending some time really getting to know yourself. The better you know yourself, the more luck you will have finding someone you truly want to be with. Some advice I recently heard from a friend: Become the person you want to go out with.

When I first noticed this article, I was pleased that the New York Times had taken an interest in our city. However, after reading it, I was left with the feeling that the writer had  completely failed to grasp an understanding of what the dating and nightlife scene is like for us here. He was only able to capture a small snapshot of the experience of a couple of Uptown-dwelling hipsters who seem to want nothing more than a serious relationship but just can’t manage to take anything seriously.

Photo of Ms. Stanley-Ayre with a Clubhouse Jaeger bouncer, submitted by Ms. Stanley-Ayre