The Press Bar Fire - St. Cloud, MN

A fire at the Press Bar in St. Cloud, MN, destroyed the entire 140 year old building, on February 17th, 2020. Knowing that was all I needed. I now had to go see what was left of a structure I knew nothing of, but was suddenly fascinated by...

Between the day of the fire, and the day I finally made it to St. Cloud (March 7, 2020), the story of the Press Bar fire became a whole lot juicier... But we'll get there.

I'd wanted to leave a lot earlier in the morning than 10:30am, but I had to wait for a Fedex package to be delivered. Once on the road, I was happy to see less traffic than expected, and I made it to St. Cloud in good time. My last drive up here was more about taking pictures of things with no plan, besides several specific locations. This time around, I had five specific stops I wanted to make. Although I took a couple of notable pictures along the way.

The old Total gas station, at the border between Anoka and Ramsey, has been turned into a vehicle wrap place and small auto lot. So small that it has zero cars for an on-site inventory. I'd photographed the abandoned gas station a couple of times throughout the years, and has always been a story I planned on writing at some point.

Just not today.

This is probably my best picture I've taken of Great River Energy in Elk River.

Ditto for Spike's Pet Supply. Also in Elk River.

Before getting into the heart of downtown, I made a restroom stop at the St. Cloud Kwik Trip.

At this point in my morning, I had been awake for nearly three hours without eating anything. My planned lunch at Bravo Burritos was at least a couple of hours away, so I threw caution to the wind and had a roller grill hot dog. Even adding some chopped onions to see how badly it would mess up my digestive track while I looked at fire damage!

Spoiler, it really didn't affect me. And it was tasty!

The KFC I photographed almost a year ago is still closed.

However, the closed up Pure Pleasure porno shop next door is now a used car lot. I'm not sure if the bigger Pure Pleasure a couple miles north is still open or not. I didn't drive through that part of town.

The Copper Lantern restaurant used to be a Country Kitchen 35 years ago. I’ve never eaten here.

I'd also never driven west of highway 10 on St. Germain Street before. Crossing the railroad tracks and then the Mississippi River, to get to the small "downtown" of St. Cloud.

Lots of underutilized structures on this stretch of road.

The first left after crossing the river leads to a public parking ramp, located just a block from where the Press Bar recently burned down. I turned into the ramp, grabbed my ticket, parked on the second level and walked down to the stairs and exit.

Snapping this picture of the back end of the Mexican Village restaurant, along the way.

The door to the stairs. The yellow flyer is noting that the parking rates will increase at the end of March. I didn't catch what the rate was when I came in, but I didn't expect it to be too much.

Less than a block away was the fire damage I came up here to see.

At the Press Bar. Formerly located at 502 St. Germain Street, in St. Cloud, MN.

The fire was reported at 2:41am, Monday, February 17, 2020.

By people in the adjoining building, in the apartments above Cowboy Jack's Saloon next door. Tenants in that building were evacuated, with the apartments and Cowboy Jack's all receiving smoke and water damage,

The intersection of Fifth Avenue and St. Germain Street and streets leading to it were closed after the fire.

Today Fifth Avenue was still closed and St. Germain was condensed. 

Initial conclusions were that the fire likely started in the basement of the Press Bar and climbed up into the walls of the structure. Due to the nature of the old construction, the fire spread quickly through the hollow walls, to the floors above and roof.

As of 6:51 a.m. Monday, all firefighters were outside the building, fighting the fire in "defensive mode", to try and prevent any further damage to surrounding buildings.

Around 10:15 a.m. Monday, St. Cloud Deputy Fire Capt. Steve Wunderlich said the Press Bar would need to be demolished in order to completely extinguish the fire.

The fire department briefed an excavation company to determine next steps of taking down what remained of the Press Bar. When I was here, it looked like the sorting of possible recycling materials that could be salvaged, had begun.

The building the Press Bar was in was 140 years old, and quickly was beyond saving. I read that it was St. Cloud's first post office, but I couldn't verify that.

Across the street is a Jimmy John's next to the Courtyard by Marriot. And whatever Searles is. 

Next door to whatever Searles is, would be the Pioneer Place on Fifth (Avenue) Theater. I should have walked down the block and taken a better picture of it. Cool looking exterior.

As I walked around the area, I ran into a younger couple that was also walking around the Press Bar and taking pictures of it. We talked about the fire and our personal histories with the Press Bar. I, of course, have none. But Laura was familiar with the place from her days of going to St. Cloud State, in the mid-1990's. After saying that, it was pointed out how much older I was than them. While it doesn't seem like all that much time has passed since my drinking and partying days, conversations like this make it seem like the decades it's been...

Behind where we were standing and looking over the security fence, a white pickup truck was parked with a guy inside. The couple told me that he was security, watching the site. You know, in case the piles of burned up rubble get vandalized...

Walking back past the burned out rubble, towards MC's Dugout Bar & Grill, on the north corner of 5th and St. Germain.

You know, there's a reason for the burned down bar in between where I was standing and MC's.

And that reason would be...

Andrew Welsh, age 40, of Sauk Rapids, MN. 

Owner of the Press Bar.

Shown here in his mug shot from the Stearns County Jail, where he is awaiting trial on 2 felony counts of arson.

Kinda looks like Billy Gunn…

(Timeline compiled from stories appearing in the St. Cloud Times)

A criminal complaint states the bar was open the previous night, and city surveillance video showed a vehicle registered to Welsh park in front of the bar at 9:02pm. the night before the fire. After sitting in the vehicle for 28 minutes, Welsh then went into the bar.

At 2:08am, a bar employee is seen leaving the bar. Nobody else entered or exited the building between the time Welsh left the bar at about 2:11am, and the time firefighters responded about 30 minutes later.

At 2:29am, smoke was seen by city surveillance cameras coming from the building. 

At 2:35am, the smoke was significant. 

At 2:39am, the fire alarms at Cowboy Jack's Saloon next door were going off. 

Firefighters arrived at 2:45am, and were still fighting the fire twelve hours later.

At 5:45am, the east wall collapsed. To contain the fire and protect neighboring buildings, the St. Cloud Fire Dept. ordered the rest of the standing walls to be pushed in, collapsing the building to keep the fire from spreading.

Investigators found the fire to have started on Welsh's desk, in the basement office. Evidence of an ignitable liquid was found on the desk. Welsh denied having any fuel in the office when interviewed by police. He said that he left at the same time as other employees, but surveillance footage shows he left the bar three minutes later.

According to stories in the St. Cloud Times, Welsh bought the bar in 2016 for around $850,000, and still owed approximately $550,000 on the deed. He was also facing multiple lawsuits for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills from contractors. The bar was ordered to be put up for sale as part of a divorce settlement, but hadn't yet been listed for sale at the time of the fire. According to multiple employees, business at the Press Bar had been declining, specifically to the point where Welsh was reducing staff and had stopped selling tap beer.

Welsh also has a $1.3 million insurance policy covering building repairs and another $300,000 for equipment...

Welsh was arrested Feb. 29th while investigators conducted search warrants. Authorities say they found nearly $2,000 in cash inside his SUV, and a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fuel on the floor of his truck.

Welsh is being held on $200,000 bail with conditions or $1.2-million bail without conditions.

His next court date has not yet been set.

Oh yeah! It was the West River's Edge Ramp that I parked in. When I stuck the ticket inside the reader, it told me that I owed the ramp a grand total of 40 cents. That was for under an hour of parking fun time. What a bargain! But hurry, prices go up in April!

They might want to rethink that, since it's not like The Press Bar is going to be a draw any time soon.

On my way to my next stop, I found the FlatIron. Housed in a very narrow brick building.

I left the downtown area and outskirts of it, and continued west onto 3rd Avenue. 

Past a building that looks like it may be getting demolished soon...

After taking my pictures of The Press Bar's cremains, my next stop would be the Fan Zone card store. They hosted the baseball card show I came up here to see about a year ago (the story of which can be read here). I didn't flip through the boxes of Twins singles that day, but had been wanting to come back to see what they had, ever since.

And today would be that day!

Flipping through the singles, I noticed the price tags on each were pretty high. Reflecting a collecting time that doesn't exist as it once did. (For fun, I'm including the price each single had on it's sticker.) Since I was worried about paying full price for these cards, I showed restraint, and didn't pull out several hundred. (Would have liked to, there are a ton of Twins singles here that I do not have.) When paying, these card were rung up as $3 for all 13.

I should have grabbed more...

Top 13 Twins cards from the Fan Zone, St. Cloud.
March 7, 2020.

#13 2002 UD Authentics - Cristian Guzman - $.50

Not sure, I may need this card for my incomplete 2002 UD Authentics set. It's not all that exciting of a card, and I probably wouldn't have bought it had that not been a question. If I already have it, I'm happy to have a duplicate.

#12 1997 Collectors Choice - Bob Tewksbury - $.35

Remember back in the late 1990's when the Twins thought they just needed some decent veteran starting pitching to swing the whole team around to winning. In 1997, that solution was thought to be Bob Tewksbury. Formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and other teams. I'm pretty sure I have this card already, but I wanted another to commemorate some of our lowest seasons...

#11 1986 Fleer Update - Billy Beane - $.50

Future guru of the Oakland Athletics, appearing on a rare Twins card.

#10 1994 Ultra - Derek Parks - $.59

Minnesota's first round pick (10th overall) in the 1986 MLB Amateur Draft.Parks played briefly in 1992 and 93 with the Twins, before getting a larger 31 game audition in 1994. He didn't hit very well, and never returned to the game of baseball after the 1994 players strike ended.

#9 2002 Donruss - Cristian Guzman - $.50

This may be my first 2002 Donruss Twins card.

#8 1986 Donruss - Tim Teufel - $.49

Since I was writing about Teufel in my last story about the 1998 Bill Frisz Twins team set, I figured I'd pick up a Teufel card that I knew I needed.

#7 1985 Bill Frisz Twins - Tim Tuefel - $.79

What a coincidence, a Bill Frisz Teufel card!

#6 2000 Upper Deck - Chad Allen - $.50

I'm sorely lacking on 2000 Upper Deck singles as well.

#5 1993 Stadium Club Jack Murphy - Dan Serafini - $.59

And this is my first card from the 1993 Stadium Club Jack Murphy set. The rare exception to the overprinted cards of the Junk Wax Era. Not sure how I never ended up with any of these.

#4 2000 UD Ionix - Corey Koskie - $.50

I know why I never ended up with any from this set... Back in this day, Upper Deck had a few good ideas, and whole bunch of bad ones, as far as producing sets went.

#3 2000 Stadium Club - BJ Garbe - $3

Was I actually willing to pay $3 for a 2000 Stadium Club base card of recent failed #1 draft pick, BJ Garbe? 


Back in 2000, I was so jazzed about the Twins signing Garbe that I dropped $20 on his autographed 2000 Topps card via ebay. Back when I wasn't buying anyone's certified autos. And boy did Garbe flame out quickly, never making it beyond AA...

And I've never seen this card before. There's some weird airbrushing going on in the stands of the Metrodome on that card too. If Garbe was even there. That almost looks like bad Photoshoppery. Not sure if I remember what the dome looked like back then either, I was living in Colorado.

#2 2002 Donruss Elite - Brad Radke - $1.49

Even at a buck fifty, I need more Brad Radke cards in my collection.

And this one is a beauty, don't let the crappy scan fool you.

#1 1991 Topps Desert Shield - Roy Smith - $.99

When all was said and done, I paid less than a quarter for this card, and I would have gladly paid the $.99 tag or even the whole $3 on it! Until now, I did not own a single 1991 Topps Desert Shield card. Nabbing a Roy Smith for my collection seems like the perfect one for a first card.

1991 Topps Desert Shield Gold Foil Stamp

If you remember back in 1991, America had just sent a bunch of it's military over to Iraq to take some oil. I mean spread democracy. I mean overthrow a dictator. I mean spread peace.... Whatever it was, we were there. Ensuring the world would be a tumultuous place for generations to come! To help the troops missing out on the Junk Wax Era back home, Topps sent over cases of wax boxes of 1991 Topps. Difference being, each of the cards in those special wax boxes would have an Operation Desert Shield Gold Foil Stamp on them. There wasn't a great deal of them that made it back to the secondary market in America, making them pretty much a junk wax anomaly. A common card from this era that has some actual value!

After an abbreviated run at Fan Zone, I had an actual hunting and gathering mission for my St. Could trip. A visit to Costco for some supplies. (That did not include toilet paper. We’re already covered there.) I really didn’t want to go to the Costco that's a few blocks from our house, because ick... I’ll just go to the one that's 50 miles away! But drawing from a much smaller market, so I can hopefully get in, get the crap I need and be out in under 15 minutes.

Look at the virtually empty St. Cloud Costco parking lot! I got everything we needed and was back in my car in 12 minutes. This couldn’t have worked out better! And that’s good because I was out of those little Kirkland beef sticks that I like in my work lunch so much!

The St. Cloud Costco is brand new. It wasn't even fully built when I was here in May of last year. Looking at the Googles, I was kind of disgusted to see what was here before the Costco... A dense forest near the Stearns History Museum. That seems really wrong to me. Like there was no other land in St. Cloud that could have possibly made a better home for Costco. All of those trees had to die just so I could get four hundred 200mg Ibuprofen tablets for $9.99?

Luckily Costco is located just a mere block and a half from the second most important attraction of today…

Bravo Burritos for lunch!

So good! 

You should seriously stop reading this and go to St. Cloud and get a Bravo Burrito. 

Tell them Honkass sent you! 

And they'll have no clue what you are talking about!

And here's the Bravo Burritos story!

After my delicious lunch, it was time to start making my way towards highway 10, and the drive back to Crapids.

Along the way, I passed Mister Car Wash. Nothing notable there, just made me think of Freelance Dan referencing a fictional product named Mister Car Wash, on an old 201 Proof Television sketch, back in 1994.

Midas Brakes is now closed.

So that's new...

So is Perkins...

I really regret not doubling back to get some decent pictures of this now closed Perkins. From the quick glance this picture allowed, I see that large cement barricades blocking all the driveway access. Kind of a sad fate for a restaurant that seemed to draw good business when I was around it. The few times that was...

Continuing down highway 23 toward highway 10. Looking between the two bridges, you can see a tiny Target sign in the distance. I need to stop by here for a few things before going home.

Lucky for me, another planned stop was right on on the way!

Why, it's the abandoned Burger King I loved so much from my drive up here last year! I simply must park the car and take a look at what has changed since May, 2019. For one, the Shopko behind it closed last Summer, and that sign is still up. A sheet of plywood is covering what used to be the indoor kids playlandzonepark.

Here's something else that's new, the water was shut off in October of last fall. 

Walking around to the drive through (which apparently doesn't get a whole lot of direct sunlight) was several shades of deadly. Trying to walk on the defrosting and re-freezing river of ice was stupid of me, but I had to see what the fuss at the drive through window was about.

Some broken windows there. Looks like someone tried to get inside. Probably for the Chicken Fries. Which are surprisingly not awful...

Looks like the broken windows have let in a good minor flood of wintery mix. Depending on how long the interior was exposed, it will make the building even more expensive to attempt a re-open. Just to clean up whatever additional damage this water will cause.

Which is a shame because this place looks like it's still open in some ways. The menu board is still complete, tables and chairs are present and the flowers are still blooming!  Also like the St. Cloud State University tabletops. Nice touch abandoned BK!

I saw a publicly uploaded photo of this Burger King on the Googles, earlier tonight. For some reason, it has this Burger King still listed as open. The photo was dated May 2019. Meaning it had to have closed just weeks, if not days, before I took my pictures on May 18, 2019. I plan on writing more on this place in the future, combining photos from both trips. But maybe that should wait and I'll check on the place again in the Summer?

Due to a traffic flow controlling median, you can only make a right turn leaving the falling apart Burger King. I need to make a left in order to get back to the highway. The easiest solution is to drive into the Target parking lot across the street, and turn around that way. Well, I needed some Target stuff, so it worked out well. Except for the matter of near public panic leaving the St. Cloud Target sold out of several of the items I needed.

Except for one thing I didn't need, but have wanted long before it was manufactured...

WWE Elite Collection - EC3

About five years ago, Ethan Carter III (EC3) was a featured star in Impact Wrestling. His feud with Rockstar Spud in 2014-15 was one of my favorites of the last 20 years. After months of serving as the loyal lacky to Ethan (the spoiled nephew of Impact owner, Dixie Carter), EC3 turns on poor Rockstar Spud. In the blowoff match, a bloody and overmatched Spud makes one last gasp in the fight. Ethan, briefly shows compassion for his former friend, then splats a bloody Spud onto the mat.

Classic storytelling.

After the video cuts, EC3 showed good sportsmanship to Spud, helping him up and raising his hand... Then attacked him and shaved his head! Per the pre-match stipulation! Yes, it's all soap opera. But when done right, pro-wrasslin can be pretty good TV.

After four years with Impact Wrestling, EC3 signed with the WWE. And they promptly did nothing with him. He hasn't been on TV in over a year. But they did make an EC3 action figure! I'm buying that no matter what! And I'm probably the only one!

The WWE Elite Collection EC3 is the first new induction to the Home of Happy Playthings Pro-Wrasslin Wall of Fame, in nearly 8 years. EC3 will take a place in the TNA wing, alongside A.J. Styles, Dr. Dr. Stevie and Daffney.

Just above the cat boxes!

I didn't score any cards at Target, but later that afternoon I scored pretty high on a few Fairfield Re-packs from the Walgreens. Because I had to leave the house again to pick up Laura's prescriptions, I added 5 Twins, 6 Expos, 2 Rockies cards I needed, and a jumbo jersey swatch of Matt Clement. Who I completely forgot pitched for the Boston Red Sox.

The Gateway Motel in St. Cloud. Located just before I get on Highway 10, to leave St. Cloud. To the right of the motel, you can see a Shopko sign. Advertising the Shopko that closed last year, and can be seen on the left of the Gateway Motel.

Some activity was taking place at the closed up Shopko. In addition to the dumpsters and cars out front, people were walking around the parking lot. It wouldn't have been a good time for pictures, so I kept moving on.

With the exception of another stop at Kwik Trip (hiding behind Culver's) to bookend my time in St. Cloud. I needed a cold beverage for the drive home, in addition to a bag of frozen chicken noodle soup for dinner that night.

Just outside St. Cloud, sits a visitor center with an old silo that has Minnesota painted on it. Someone posted a picture of it online a few days earlier, which reminded me that I didn't have one of my own. Until now...

Further down the road, I finally figured out this long closed gas station in Big Lake, used to be a Casey's General Store. Thanks to a 2012 photo showing a Casey's sign at this location. I'm guessing the big shiny Kwik Trip next door kicked Casey flat out of business, shortly after opening.

A few blocks east, a new Minnco gas station is going up. But something tells me they cant do away with Kwik Trip as quickly as the latter did Casey's...

There's a near mandatory stop after driving through Elk River, and that's to see if Saxon Motors is finally going to hold up their sign's promise...

Because this poor truck down the road could really use their help!

Nope... They are still not here...

Going on at least 7 years since they started lying about where they'd be...

Digging through my saved photos on an external drive, I found this picture of Saxon Motors, that I took in September of 2012. Back when the front windows were unboarded. Too bad I didn't get closer for some interior shots of the display floor area. I'm sure it was destroyed by Dert, Flar and 2 Canz $, before the owners had it sealed off.

Back in Anoka, the former Perkins is now wearing "available" banners. Taking bets on it finding a new tenant as is, or will the building get flattened first.

A few blocks east of he T-12 Scrambled's old house, sits Main Motor of Anoka.

This longtime staple of Anoka has a new owner...

That's right! 

Mauer's Main Motor: "Slowly driving you to shortstop, when you need to go so much further..."

Since I don't want to cover the pandemic, I'm just going to show Mauer getting terrified by his bat again!

I love that picture!


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