Beaudreau’s: An East St. Cloud Staple Since the 1880s
ST. CLOUD -- Beaudreau’s Bar in east St. Cloud has long claimed to be ‘the oldest bar in St. Cloud”. I know it has been around for a long time, but is that an accurate statement? With a lot of help from Mary Ostby over at the Benton County Historical Society, we did some digging to find out the truth.
According to city documents, way back in 1880 at the age of 19 a man by the name of Frank Beaudreau applied for and was granted the first saloon license ever issued in the city of St. Cloud.
It’s not clear if he actually used that license immediately as there are reports that he opened up a lunch and soft drink business with no mention of serving alcohol.
In an oral interview, his wife Flora says after three years Frank Beaudreau bought the property at 418 East St. Germain Street where he opened his saloon around about the year 1884. Here’s the catch, 418 East St. Germain Street isn’t the location of the current Beaudreau’s bar, it is next door.
St. Cloud city directories and U.S. Census records still list his occupation in 1888 as a teamster, but by 1892 it was as a saloon keeper.
Frank’s saloon had some trouble very early on. It was reported that on August 1st, 1886 there was a fight in his establishment with one man kicked in the stomach. He died two days later. The man who kicked him was found guilty of manslaughter and spent 18 months in prison.
Frank Beaudreau ran his bar at that original location until he died in July of 1935 – or for about 50 years. Of course, prohibition lasted from 1920 until 1933 so it is likely that during those years it was a soft drink establishment.
It is clear that Frank Beaudreau had become a prominent business leader in east St. Cloud because news of his passing was covered by the Twin Cities newspapers.
Frank was also the first foreman of the very first fire department established in east St. Cloud.
So what about the current Beaudreau’s bar building? There is a brick in the front of the building with the Beaudreau’s name, so we know it is original to the family. Well, property records show that Frank Beadreau’s original saloon obviously did very well for him, because he ended up buying most of the properties in the 400 block of East St. Germain Street, including the building at 414 East St. Germain Steet – the current Beaudreau’s location.
Back to a newspaper article about his death, it stated that Frank’s son Walter was running that business. The year it was built and its original business model isn’t clear, but a sign on the bar inside the building says “established in 1907” which could be a good indication of when the building was built. However, it is unlikely that the original business was a bar given that there was already a Beaudreau’s bar right next door.
What we do know is that during the years of prohibition the business was a candy store and sold root beer on tap for a nickel. At least that was officially what the business was. It was also a place where Walter Beaudreau was known to sell moonshine.
There is a great oral history recorded by a man with the last name of Melvin Nystrom who stated that when he was a young boy he and his friends would sit on the other side of the street watching and waiting for the federal agents to show up and try to arrest him. Walter had an artificial leg and walked with a limp and had a cane. Nystrom says as the feds tried to arrest him, Walter would swing the cane at them.
The agents finally got Walter Beaudreau who was tried in federal court in Duluth in 1929. He plead guilty to bootlegging was fined $400 and given four months in jail.
We do know that after prohibition ended in 1933 Walter Beaudreau transitioned the current Beaudreau’s into a legal liquor establishment. Again, an article in a Twin Cities newspaper reporting on Frank Beaudreau’s death in 1935 stated that “Walter was operating a liquor store next to the saloon which his father started”.
After his father’s death and the closure of the original bar in 1935 Walter obviously transitioned his business from a liquor store to a full bar. Walter ran that business at 414 East St. Germain Street until he died on March 12th, 1949. His obituary says he died at the bar at the age of just 58 years old.
With Walter’s passing, the Beaudreau family got out of the bar business with Beaudreau’s having a handful of different owners over the years. Fortunately for us, they all have opted to keep the Beaudreau’s name.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find any old photos of either of the two bars or either of the two men.
So, again, what we know is that Beaudreau’s does hold the distinction of being the very first legal saloon in the city of St. Cloud. And, that there has always been a Beaudreau’s on East St. Germain Street for 138 years in a row. The first Beaudreau’s at 418 East St. Germain Street for about 50 years from 1884 until 1935, and the second Beaudreau’s at 414 East St. Germain Street for about 87 years from about 1935 until today.
The current owners of Beaudreau's Bar are Orson Chmielewski and Justin Chmielewski.
Listen to the full interview with Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby: