Rail resizedLong known as one of the diviest of dives among Twin Cities gay bars, the Brass Rail’s stained carpeting is gone and the bathrooms — dank, dirty and smelling of urine — have been completely replaced with natural stone treatments and an upscale look.

The Brass Rail has long had a regular clientele — old-timers ogling strippers and dive-bar aficionados — but its future seemed bleak when the owners of the Saloon sold it and the new owner couldn’t generate enough business to keep it afloat (let alone make the needed updates).

Enter Peter Hafiz. Hafiz owns several strip clubs on the block as well the the Gay 90s — he practically owns the entire block at 5th and Hennepin Ave. He also owned the building that the Rail is housed in. It seems a natural fit for the adult entertainment mogul to revamp one of the dingiest bars on the Hennepin strip.

Hafiz, who has begun a major remodel of the Gay 90s has done a fantastic job on its neighbor, the Brass Rail. And while wrangling with the city, it took 9 months to complete.

It is opulent with granite on the bar, walls and stage, and is ready for bigger and better things than that space has seen in a long time. The World Famous Brass Rail reopened in late September and is one magnificent addition to the downtown lineup. When you first walk in you are immediately welcomed to the newly defined space with warm tones of natural stone. The front facade is a nice touch — the front completely opens to the sidewalk (weather permitting of course). Further the upscale with bar treatment of marble and a private lounge in the back specifically designed for bottle service. The management wanted it to be known that they have yet to host their official launch as they still have surprises in store including a talent line up to be managed by none other that the Gay 90’s show lounge director Nina Diangelo. Even the outside facade managed to take the best of the old (the original sign) and blend it with a new eye catching burst of color lighting up the side of the building and showing off the new windows. The Brass Rail has magically transformed a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

The Brass Rail
422 Hennepin Av.
The Brass Rail needs a Facebook page and website to add to the new improvements!

Visit TheColu.mn’s Flickr pool for more images of the new Brass Rail. And if you have some pics to share, feel free to add them to our pool!

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  1. The new Brass Rail is basically hell on earth. I was told by the security at the door that there was going to be a dress code put in place ( specifically no jeans and sneakers )- which seems to me like a blatant attempt to keep black patrons out.

    The drinks are over-priced. The staff are caricatures of themselves, and rude to boot. The granite EVERYWHERE makes me want to vomit. The TVs ( showing a Slipknot video? ) are unnecessary and distracting.

    Where are the regulars expected to go? I saw several of us wandering around, looking bewildered before leaving, never to return again.

    I hope your classist, chocolate martini serving, bullshit bar closes. And, hopefully, in its place, a new dive bar can open up, where people aren’t judged on their race, class, or clothing, but rather by their ability to smile and chat with their neighbor.

  2. I puked in my mouth when I read this “article”
    The old Brass Rail was a working class gem now replaced by something that looks like the bathroom of a shitty Las Vegas hotel.

    This is steeped in a homonormativity which reflects the delusional desired of Midwest gays to create some sort of narrative of “arriving.” “Isn’t it great we don’t need thse dive bars that is something of the past, now we can have cute upscale bars.”

    With its new horrible look and its new racist dress code policy the Brass Rail has managed to alienate all of its former clientele. It will only be a mater of time before its doors shut for good. No one seems to remember the ill fated Empire.

  3. A “magnificent addition to the downtown lineup?” Really? The problem isn’t that the bar is upscale, its that it is painfully generic. It looks like the lobby of a Comfort Inn. And the security is completely out of control. There are more people in militarized garb surveying the crowd than there are in London Heathrow airport. Am I not supposed to feel creeped out that there is an army separating the bar from people hanging out on the street outside?

    And the granite countertops are yesterday. I know the mainstream GLBT institutions think that condos, volvos, and gay club meds are supposed to secure rights and “equality” for all of us – but it is time for that agenda to end. I thought going to the bar was supposed to be fun, not a half-baked effort to prove my middle class strivings….

  4. I went here on Saturday night…it was horrible! I want my old Brass Rail back! I want the sleeze, the bad strippers, and the handjobs at the urinal. This place sucks and does not make me smile(y). I hate to say it but I think this place is going to fail.

    Love, Michelle Smiley

  5. i have so many fond memories of the old brass rail – the divey bar of my dreams that felt like home. i could look around with assurance: these, these were MY people.

    the new brass rail? well, i can’t even get in, what with my jeans and sneakers. hell, i don’t even think i could get in with my heels, ripped-up fishnets and mini-skirt (unless we can count that as “business casual”…a phrase which makes me feel gassy). the last thing the queer community needs is YET ANOTHER over-priced, SNOOZERS bar with a racist, classist dress code, no less.

    nothing is more boring and abhoring than walking into a bar that feels like applebee’s. if i wanted to go to applebee’s i would have stayed in the town in which i was raised, popped out five kids by age 22 and slowly drank myself to death out of sheer boredom.

    give me cheap drinks and cheap tricks!

  6. Make no mistake: the old Brass Rail had practices of racism as well. One night I re-entered the BR with friends, all who are white-myself included-and one who is black. The white friends, myself included, entered without any issue. The black friend was quickly stopped and carded even though he’d been in the bar with us the entire time. Not cool, and something we should keep in mind as we memorialize the old Brass Rail

    But the new Brass Rail is so much worse because it aggressively aims to exclude working class and poor people–people who wear hats and jeans and sneakers, people who do not “dress up” to meet the newly enforced code in its desperate grab at this cosmopolitan elitism. A lot of working class and poor people who hang out on that block of Hennepin are people of color, predominantly black people. I mean, come on, it’s wedged in-between an adult bookstore and a strip bar.

    The new Brass Rail is inhospitable for people who can pass by the walkie-talkied gatekeepers up front. And it’s denied to those people who can’t muster up the right kind of “look” to gain entry, let alone buy over-priced Premium on tap ($5? You have to be kidding me)

  7. ps Peter Hafiz really has the interests of queers at heart a man who has dumped over $3,000 dollars into Norm Coleman’s lap in his Senate campaigns

  8. This bar makes the assumption that queer people are made out of money. Unfortunately poor queers do exist, and we are mourning the demise of one of our last divey social spaces: victim of the cookie cutter gentrification we hoped would stay in the suburbs. To all those who have not yet visited, the new brass rail is far from worth your time. The drinks were way over priced (a pint of premium was more than $5.00), and the staff was stiffer than their pours.

    The bar manager, clad in his business suit, was a complete ass hole. He insisted I was trying to steal from the bar because my card would not go through. He lectured me about being arrogant and cheap in front of the whole bar, because I was apparently using a faulty card. As it turned out my account was charged in full and he was just on a power trip, probably because I didn’t not prescribe to his narrow idea of how a fag is supposed to look and act. The similarity of all of the “gay” spaces in downtown is a direct reflection of the monopoly behind them. I can’t imagine a place with so little character sustaining itself.

  9. OMG! This is the stuff I hate about Minneapolis. That damn racist card always shows it’s ugly head when somebody doesn’t get their way. Now granted, I have pulled the “HOMO” card from time to time, but usually to protect myself.
    A dress code is a nice thing. I have worked around this beautiful country at more than 10 bars and a dress code is acceptable everywhere but in this city.
    The Bolt enforces a strict dress code on Friday nights! Do you declare “racism” on that establishment.
    Let me put it nicely…Finally, somebody had the cash and clout to clean up an old dump like the Brass Rail. HOOOOORAY! Five dollars for a draft? Do you bitch when you go to Olive Garden or TGIFridays or Figlio? The Brass Rail had to change to move into the future. There are plenty of dumps for you to hang out in, if that’s your game.
    I had no immediate plans to go to the Brass Rail, but after reading the article and your bitching, I am putting it on the top of my list!

  10. Do you bitch when you go to Olive Garden or TGIFridays or Figlio?

    Answer: Yes, Those places are disgusting

    The thing I hate about Minneapolis is air head homos like you Scott. White suburban males who want to have a circle jerk to their upscale New York fantasies. Part of living in the midwest is a love of the dive bar. If you are dying for that “new York feeling bar” move to New York and do us all a favor.

    PS F**k you for thinking racism is some sort of “scam” or “joke”

  11. Forgive me for speaking my mind. So I guess free speach is not an option any more.

    Yes, I live in a suburb.
    Yes, I am educated.
    Yes, I am born and raised in the Midwest.
    Yes, I like to think we deserve a NICE chic gay bar.

    Maybe the owner should have just left the bar closed. The clientele that frequented the place prior to it’s closing couldn’t support it enough to keep it open, so it’s obvious the owner made a decision to clean it up, spend some money and make it safe (afterall, we all can agree that the only thing supporting the floor was the filthy carpeting). What is so wrong with having nice things? I mean, seriously!
    btw…I’ve never participated in a “circle jerk” and at least I have the savvy to travel to New York and can afford to do so. Elitist Homos like me go out and spend money at bars, which keeps them in business!

  12. Wow….. I am completely impressed that the Brass Rail is no longer one giant health code violation. These comments on here are killing me though. People complaining about the lack of public sex, and smell, and circle jerks….how much more stereotypical can we get. Only straight people deserve nice places to go? Really? The one that really got me was the assumption that only Black people wear Tennis shoes and Jeans.
    The facts are the facts…….The new owners OWN the Rail now…they could have done whatever they wanted….turned it straight, even turned it into a parking lot…… If the old patrons were able to support the old business with their frequency of handjobs at the urinals…then maybe the old owners would never have lost the business……..As an old patron and a new one, I am already noticing, that for every “regular” that doesn’t return, there are 5 new people to take their place…..I’m thankful to the new owners for giving me a new beautiful relaxing place to go and be gay….and not giving Augies a new parking lot…. Get a grip people…if you like Dives you can still go to the 19…but you better hurry, , I heart it is for sale as well……seems the people that frequent dive bars , don’t have the sense of loyality it takes to keep them open. Just my opinion.

  13. y’all suburban upstanding HRC gays have plenty of other places to go. let the rest of us queers and freaks have our spots.

  14. went there the other night – most of what these critical comments said were true. boring and grandiose in their attempt to do “new york chic” – i don’t see this place open for very long.
    and what’s with all these overpriced upscale gay bars opening up right now during a recession anyway? denial anyone?

  15. I know I’m dating myself, but prior to the Rail being sold to the owners of the Saloon, it was a nice, clean, piano bar. I miss having Marguerite there on an evening, greeting the patrons as if they were her kids and David Powell at the piano.

    The downward slide started years ago. Too bad there wasn’t some way to maintain it as a pleasant, “neighborhood” bar.

  16. After working at the ‘new’ brass rail going on 5 years, I can say that I am quite happy to be an employee and consider it an important, unique part of the downtown lgbtq bar community. The small friendly staff tries to uphold a moral that everyone is welcome until they become disrespectful to any party or individual. This can, at times.be difficult based on our location, but we are not afraid to remove anyone for causing a disturbance.with the bar or another patron. The rail continues to not require any type of entrance fee or cover, even during pride, which is unique. As far as drink prices, the rail offers happy hour every day from noon -7pm on all domestic beers and well/rail pours for $3. We currently also offer a 341 deal Sunday through Thursday from 7pm-9pm. I’m fairly certain that drink prices during non-special times are downtown typical if not competitive. Although I may be a tiny bit biased, I believe the small staff is excellent and if engaged will help you feel right at home.


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