There are some cool mysteries at “Joker’s Bar and Fun Alley,” the Grantsburg tavern formerly known as “Denny’s Downtown Lanes.” It not only has new owners, it has an exciting, even exotic future. Co-owners Todd and Karen Satter, who hail from Pine City have big dreams for their new joint.
“Oh, I’ve got so many plans,” Todd said with excitement as he started to give a behind the scenes tour. “You’re really gonna love this…”
For many years, the intersection of Madison Ave. and Pine Street was known as Rainbow Corner, as it housed the Rainbow Hotel, Café & Bar. Todd is giddy as he talks of the past and what the future holds for Joker’s Bar - named for his stand-up comedy background.
He noted the rich history the property holds, with rumors of a basement ‘speakeasy’ bar, secret tunnels, remote release doors and much more.
Reinforcing that mystery is a strange, octagonal wooden structure with a series of hidden motors, compressors and tubing, laying on its side in the struggling rainbow light of the glass block
The corner has been everything from a photography studio to doctor’s office, bowling alley, boarding house, several taverns, restaurants, ice cream shop, event center, candy shop and more, including yes, that rumor that it had a basement ‘speakeasy’ during Prohibition, secret door and all.
“The guy upstairs had to ring you in,” Todd said, with a grin, pointing across to the bar. “It was called ‘The Downtowner’.. no windows, no nothing, tunnels across the street, it was pretty cool.”
They have already started to repair, enhance, restore and rebuild the historic property, with an eye toward making it a little bit of everything, from all ages activities to adult stand-up comedy, live music, and an exotic ‘Tiki Bar’ plan for the back courtyard.
A new start needed
The Satters are bent on not only making the historic corner spot someplace that’s cool to visit, they want it to be their ‘swan song,’ of sorts: They’ve essentially cashed in their successful, 37-year Minnesota painting business, turning it into Joker’s Bar.
The Satters know it’s going to be tons of work, but they also look at it as a fresh start, a sort of second chapter after the loss of their teenage son, eight years ago, who took his own life at age 17.
“This is the best thing to happen to us since that tragedy,” Todd said with a slight smile and a shake of his head. “We’re excited about it, and this is our last life project, really. We bought it to retire here.”
He is keeping track of it all and making it so the coolest features aren’t lost, but that rich history is worth noting.
Storied Local History
The Rainbow Corner property had its first Land Patent in 1863, to none other than area founder Canute Anderson, who owned the property that later was surveyed and platted on the 1870s later having multiple buildings on the corner, tightly packed, with the largest corner spot known as ‘Mrs. Hickerson’s Building,’ with other portions being a confectionary, with the main building sporting a unique roofline that was sacrificed decades later for a balcony and more room upstairs.
Satter and others have even mentioned the long-rumored tunnel system spidering out from Rainbow Corner, although they’re capped it may have been to share heating duties among the buildings and across the street, kind of a shared heating cooperative.
Somewhere along the line, all four buildings were combined into a more common structure, possibly to share heating, with many rooms, catacombs, stairwells and smaller boarding rooms upstairs.
Solving one mystery
Todd and Karen are committed to making Joker’s Bar into something downtown Grantsburg can be proud of.
“We’ve got a second lease on life, and we sort of look at this as our baby,” Todd said, noting the games, outdoor patio and other projects ahead. “It’s a money machine!” He exclaimed on the stand-up glass booth, meant for short-lived contests of people to ‘grab’ cash. “Throw some money in there and turn it on … it looks like a million dollars!”
Yes, the fun has just begun.