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March 01, 2010

More on last call at Aquarius

Here's some from the extended, Director's Cut online version of my article on last call at Aquarius/McMurphy's. A trimmed back version is on the front page of the print edition.

There are more Elizabeth Nida photos from the night online with the longer version of the article.

Rochester's largest and most popular night spots ended a 30 year run this weekend not with a bang, but with a party.

Murphy's Sports Cafe and the Aquarius Club had their last calls Saturday as the two venues became part of the city's history. The site will re-open later in spring as a new bar.

02282010aquarius2 While the future begins today with remodeling, the weekend was all about the past. The mood felt like a family reunion with cameras flashing, lots of hugs and most conversations starting with, "Remember when…?"

"I've had a lot of good times here," said Matt Bjergum as he sat at the McMurphy's bar with friends.

For 15 years, he, along with crowds of other Rochester people, spent many St. Patrick's Days and New Year's Eves at McMurphy's as well as many nights watching sports.

"It has been a good run," said Tom Murphy as he sat in his office on what he calculated as his 1,546th Saturday night - his last one - at McMurphy's/ Aquarius. "I have been very fortunate."

Murphy, who opened his first Rochester bar in 1975 when he was 23, built and opened Dooley's Lounge and Grill on the site at 12th Street and Marion Road Southeast with his partner Mick Kane in 1980.

In 1990, it was turned into McMurphy's. Aquarius Club, the dance club that could hold 700 people, opened up with its laser light shows and smoke machines.

For the last 14 years, Rosie, "the most relentless shot girl that you ever saw," sold drinks at Aquarius.

Called by her nickname Rosie in the club, Kim Palmby sold her last shots Aquarius became "the" place to be on Friday and came back Saturday for the send-off.

While the large club format is no longer as a popular as it was in the '80s and '90s, the club's fans were paying a cover charges of $15 and later $25 to get in, Palmby said the club was a special place where she formed many great friendships.

"Tom, Mick and Jack (Murphy) were the best to work for," she said.

As she looked at the metal detector that people passed through to enter the club, Palmby acknowledged that the scene had changed some in recent years.

While no major violence ever occurred inside Aquarius or McMurphy's, a reputation grew as incidents started happening in the large parking lot around the bars. Fights, an occasional stabbing and one shooting that happened after Aquarius closed for the night attracted the attention of the Rochester Police and local media.

"It is not a knock on the club. The staff has always worked well with us," said Chief Roger Peterson of the practice of having patrol and street officers monitoring closing time most Friday and two Saturday nights at Aquarius. "It is just the demographics. That many 21- to 25-year-olds in one place drinking and you'll have some problems."


Was this nightspot bigger than First Ave?


I'm not sure. I focus on S.E. Minn. I don't follow what happens in the Cities much and I don't know anything really about the clubs there.

There's more than enough in this region for me to write about.

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