Gramma B's in NE Minneapolis (1979 - 1984)
Local dive bar and starting place of professional wrestling legends
Gramma B's opened for business at 1900 Marshall St NE in Northeast Minneapolis in December 1979. To open his own place, its owner, 31-year-old Tony Benincasa, sold his stake in Goofy's, a bar located near downtown Minneapolis. Its history showed an immensely popular, albeit rough place, loved by a rowdy bar crowd and reviled by the surrounding neighborhood.
Much like Goofy's, Gramma B's was a busy bar that catered to local softball players - at least initially. In 1980 Benincasa sponsored dozens of teams throughout the metro area, hoping they'd make his bar their post-game destination. For the most part, it worked. Gramma B's became a hotspot soon after opening, and on many nights boasted a packed parking lot and cars lined up and down Marshall. The place was consistently busy, so much so that some nights required closing the doors to curtail overcrowding
Filling the place to the point of turning people away was no small feat. The former home to the Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 1247, a local social club that met to discuss ways to improve the NE community, was a 15000 sq ft two-story establishment that could comfortably hold hundreds, if not thousands, of people a night. Despite its size, Gramma B's, with a large bar upstairs near a dance floor and stage and downstairs with pool tables, foosball, jukebox, and more, always seemed to be a busy place.
It was a "blue jeans boogie bar" seen as Northeast's answer to the Cabooze, a spot for hard-working, blue-collar people of the area to come, have a few drinks and listen to live music. During the day people came to Gramma B’s to eat lunch and enjoy the makeshift strip club. At night, a decidedly younger crowd made their way into the booze-packed and smoke-filled bar.
A live band usually played rock-n-roll upstairs, while country music played on the lower level.
It didn’t take long for the place to become rowdy. The Minnesota Hell's Angels clubhouse was close by, and the bar eventually was known as a biker joint. Gramma B's was soon forced to enact a very strict "no colors'' policy. It welcomed all, but patrons couldn't wear anything affiliated with a particular motorcycle club/gang. Anyone that had a problem with the dress code ended up meeting the bar’s bouncers.
Gramma B's rough clientele required a special group of bouncers to keep them in line. The bar employed a group of behemoths that became some of the country's most famous professional wrestlers of the 1980s-90s. One of its bartenders, Ed Sharkey, renowned for his ability to train some of the all-time greats, helped create wrestlers from bouncers that included (Ravishing) Rick Rude, Hawk and Animal of the Road Warriors, John Nord (aka The Bezerker), Scott Simpson (aka Nikita Koloff), and Barry Darsow (aka Smash from Demolition).
Occasionally, the craziness inside the bar made its way outside of the premises and into the nearby neighborhoods. This resulted in many late-night disturbances, including litter and noise violations, property damage, and vandalism. In the four years it operated, Gramma B's had the highest number of police calls for a bar in the second precinct of Minneapolis.
By September 1984, tax debts had forced Gramma B's out of business. Benincasa's parents opened a place called Anton's at the same address for a short time after its closing, but couldn't convince the Minneapolis City Council to award them the necessary food and liquor licenses to remain viable. The couple attempted to distance themselves from Gramma B's sordid history but were unsuccessful. They soon moved on.
Gabby's Saloon & Eatery opened at the location in 1986. In 2010, the owner sold it to Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, which currently occupies the space.
- Berg, Andrew. "When Robbinsdale Ruled the Wrestling World." RosterResource.com. https://www.rosterresource.com/wrestling-when-robbinsdale-ruled-the-wrestling-world/.
- "Anton's Inc. V. City of Minneapolis." Justia Law. https://law.justia.com/cases/minnesota/court-of-appeals/1985/c9-85-937-0.html.
- Franklin, Robert. "3 Eagles Clubs May Lose Bar License." Minneapolis Tribune, November 14, 1969, 21.
- Horgen, Tom. "Gabby's Closes, Makes Way for New Psycho Suzi's." Star Tribune. Last modified July 13, 2010. https://www.startribune.com/gabby-s-closes-makes-way-for-new-psycho-suzi-s/98366684/.
- Laurinaitis, Joe "Animal"., Wright, Andrew William. The Road Warriors: Danger, Death and the Rush of Wrestling: Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling. United States: Medallion Media Group, 2010.
- Meryhew, Richard. "Gramma B's goes to bat for softball." The Minneapolis Star, July 10, 1980, 90.
- "The Road Warriors | The Backstory Behind Their Formation and TV Debut." Pro Wrestling Stories. Last modified January 13, 2021. https://prowrestlingstories.com/pro-wrestling-stories/road-warriors-animal-hawk/.
About the Creator
Historian for The Streets of St. Paul and Minnesota Then. I'm using this platform to share stories about Minnesota history and whatever else (or wherever else) I find interesting at the time.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.