Brian McGoldrick, owner of Admiral D’s Waterfront Tavern, likens the effect music has on people walking, biking and boating past his restaurant to something like that of a pied piper. Several nights a week, when small electric and acoustic bands play on his 5,000-square-foot lakeside patio, the melodies wafting on the breeze “draw people in, and create a really nice environment,” says McGoldrick, now in his eighth summer of operating the seasonal bar and restaurant on the lake’s western shore.
Since Minnesotans want to be outdoors as much as possible during the spring, summer and fall, patio spots like Admiral D’s enjoy “a unique advantage over indoor places,” says McGoldrick, who books rock, folk, country and blues music three to four nights per week.
This summer, Admiral D’s began offering dinner cruises on a 65-foot Skipper Liner boat McGoldrick acquired over the winter. With seating for 65 people, the boat is big enough to support live music, which should give his business an additional boost.
Noise complaints can be a challenge for outdoor venues, especially when music is amplified. But McGoldrick says that hasn’t been a problem. “We tell the bands to start out with some slower, softer songs and then the volume gets turned up a little bit later. We don’t want people to feel as though they are at a Stones concert; they should be able to converse easily.”
Washington Square Bar and Grill has been staging music, both outdoor and indoor, since opening in 1998. Starting in May and continuing as late into the fall as weather permits, solo and duo acts and small bands perform on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday on the patio, which is favored with a southern exposure. Some of the music is electric and amplified, but owner John McGuire says he hasn’t had a problem with noise complaints since the bands he books are careful about cranking up the volume.
Of course, Minnesota’s fickle weather makes every outdoor event somewhat tentative. “The weather is the hardest thing to deal with,” McGuire says. “But we have a small PA system we can move inside if it rains.” Frequent outdoor performers at Washington Square include singer-songwriter/guitarists like Kurt Jorgenson, Joe Cruz and Brianna Tagg, and the duo of Steve Lehto and John Wright, described as Celtic/American/English folk and progressive rock.
Along with presenting music in its indoor lounge area six nights a week, The Station Pub and Event Center stages duos and small bands on its patio Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m., and on occasional Sunday afternoons. In an outdoor environment, even when amplified, music and vocals can get “lost” in environmental noise like traffic sounds. But the Station, located at the corner of Highway 61 N. and Fourth Street, sets up its outdoor “stage” so musicians are facing the building, which has the effect of bouncing the music back toward the listeners on the patio, according to co-owner Kate McKeague. “The sound is very good out there.”
The music featured on the patio tends to be acoustic, by local favorites such as Dave Lenz, John Evans and Dan Perry, and the Average Gatsby, a vocal/guitar duo consisting of two White Bear Lake High School teachers.
McKeague and her husband, Jake, like to open up the patio “as soon as possible,” when the unpredictable March weather permits. But they wait until the warmth of May to start staging music, for a very good reason: Musicians need to be able to move their fingers.