The documentary film, “Jay’s Longhorn,” explores the former Minneapolis nightclub called Jay’s Longhorn, which was opened June 1, 1977 by owner Jay Berine and his friend and booker, Al Wodtke. The opening show featured local rockers, Flamingo. At the time, the former Nino’s Steakhouse was the only venue that regularly featured original punk rock, new wave, and indie rock music in Minnesota. In fact, Jay’s Longhorn opened nearly three years before the 7th St. Entry and at a time when the venue that would become First Avenue — Uncle Sam’s — featured disco and progressive hard rock bands.
Almost overnight, Jay’s Longhorn became the epicenter for punk rock and indie rock in Minneapolis and began attracting international touring acts, such as Elvis Costello, Blondie, Talking Heads, The B-52’s, and the Police. Early local bands included Flamingo, seminal punk rockers the Suicide Commandos, Curt Almstead and Thumbs Up, Fingerprints, the Suburbs, NNB, the Hypstrz, and later Husker Du, the Wallets, and the Replacements.
The house DJ was Peter Jesperson, an influential music fan who worked at Oar Folkjokeopus and later helped found Twin/Tone Records, which signed many of the Longhorn bands. Jesperson also went on to manage the Replacements. The other Twin/Tone founders were Charley Hallman, a reporter with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Paul Stark, a sound engineer who produced several local records, including the first two 45s by the Suicide Commandos. Stark also is responsible for installing the first P.A. in the Longhorn.
Jay’s Longhorn, located at 14 South Fifth Street in downtown Minneapolis, burned brightly but relatively briefly. After Berine left in 1978, the Longhorn was taken over by his cousin, Hartley Frank, who was not nearly as beloved as Berine. Still, Frank ran the club for several more years before running into competition from Duffy’s, which opened in 1979, and the 7th St. Entry, which opened in March 1980. The Longhorn soon began to lose its prominence as a nightclub and musicians frustrated with dealing with Frank moved on to other locations. Frank changed the club’s name to Zoogies in 1982 and it wasn’t long before its doors closed for good.
Today, the building still stands, stripped of its Western decor, serving as a storage warehouse for Xcel Energy. The memories and the influence of Jay’s Longhorn, however, live on. And nearly all of its original musicians continue to play and record new music.