617 Lounge – A White Bear Lake Landmark

Mar 1, 2024

The Avalon Theatre building was completed in 1928 by Mrs. Jessie Jensen as an English Tudor Style with Norman influences designed by architect Kenneth B. Worthen and constructed by the Mattlin Company—a local company.  The building cost approximately $50,000.00 to build in 1928.  It originally housed a beauty salon, movie theatre, and ice cream parlor.  The theatre seated 600 people and had a skydome that gave the effect of clouds and stars.

Mel Kirkby moved his Sweet Shop here when the building was complete, and his prior location (now the patio of Washington Square) was slated for demolition to make way for a Texaco station.  That lease was maintained until Prohibition was repealed in 1933, at which time the 617 Liquor Store took over with on and off-sale liquor.

The 617 Lounge opened on March 9, 1934, and has been reputed for years to have held the first liquor license in White Bear.  It was the second saloon to be licensed once repeal was completely rolled out in 1934.  Paul Albrecht, son of Mrs. Jensen and longtime owner of the saloon, filed for a license on February 2, just a few days after another local establishment made them the second liquor license in White Bear.

The 617 Lounge has been operating at that location ever since—under only 3 owners!  Paul Albrecht owned the operation originally, then sold it to longtime employee Rod Olson in 1968.  In 2003 the business was sold to Mary Montpetit, another long-time employee.  Over the years there have been several changes. Today, it is strictly an on-sale establishment and does no bottle sales. Built as part of the Avalon Theatre originally, the lounge is connected to but a separate business from the present Avalon Mall which has replaced the original theatre with offices and retail entities.

Fun Fact – why is it named the 617 Lounge?

617 Fourth Street was the original address before the lots were renumbered to four-digit addresses in the 1980s to conform with the 911 emergency response system.

 

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