New Riverside Cafe

The Neighborhood Living Room

In Cedar-Riverside, activists employed unusual tactics to protest urban redevelopment. At one point they nailed chickens to the developer's office doors. The home base for many of these activists was once located at the corner of Cedar and Riverside Avenues: the New Riverside Café.

In the 1960s and 1970s, new arrivals in the neighborhood included students, scholars, hippies and activists from the Twin Cities and across the U.S. who enjoyed the cheap rents and an emerging counterculture community. Many of these new residents were anti-war, anti-capitalism and anti-development and sought to create new kinds of community based on political activism, cooperative businesses, communal living and alternative urban development.

The Café collective was organized under the guidance of Episcopal priest and neighborhood activist, William Teska, with donations from the community. It opened in 1970 and quickly became a cornerstone of the counterculture community, a "living room" for the neighborhood. The first full-service vegetarian restaurant in Minneapolis, the Café offered food on a "pay-as-you-can" basis.

The communal approach to running a business meant that finances were always a struggle. The Café engaged in additional businesses including a moving company, catering business and an auto repair shop. The Café also became a center for local music. There was an open stage every night and on weekends some of the best known local bands would play.

Café collective members were at the center of a struggle to preserve the neighborhood against urban development and institutional expansion. Cedar-Riverside Associates (CRA), a local developer, was intent on replacing older structures in the neighborhood in order to create high-density residential buildings promoted as a "New Town-In Town." Its vision clashed with many newcomers who enjoyed the older housing and cheap rents and wanted to preserve historical structures through rehabilitation, not razing and removal. From the late 1960s through the 1970s, these two groups were involved in a battle over which vision would succeed.

Café collective members hosted community meetings, supported tenants strikes and planned public protests at the Café. A Café collective member adapted the black cat anarchist symbol for the community movement. The cat and the slogan, "We Never Forget-We Never Sleep," were painted on neighborhood sidewalks and trashcans, and flyers and banners were distributed in the area.

Activists founded a number of community-oriented organizations like the Community Union, the People's Center, the West Bank Tenant's Union, the Project Action Committee (PAC), the West Bank grocery and the West Bank Community Development Corporation. A free school, two hardware Coops and a bicycle Coop were also created to support residents' needs. Various theater companies, art and music activities brought a thriving cultural community to the neighborhood.

By the end of the 1970s, community activists, through the courts and with public support, had won the war against CRA. In the 1980s they initiated several rehabilitation projects to preserve remaining residential and commercial buildings. By the mid-1990s, however, many neighborhood activists had moved out. In 1997 the New Riverside Café closed due to financial problems. Since then several restaurants have filled the space. Acadia Café, which opened in 2007, is the current occupant. It continues to serve students, scholars and residents and proudly features local craft beers. Its slogan is "No Crap on Tap."

Images

New Riverside Cafe Collective, 1971

New Riverside Cafe Collective, 1971

Members of an emerging counterculture community in Cedar-Riverside opened the New Riverside Cafe on September 13, 1970 in a location on 19th and Riverside Avenues. Its name was chosen the day before it opened. While some members preferred "Last Stand Cafe," others wanted a name that evoked a new beginning. The New Riverside Cafe was chosen to commemorate an old cafe that had been torn down because of redevelopment. It soon faced the bulldozer as well, when the University of Minnesota decided it wanted to build a parking lot in that space and forced the Cafe to move. Members refused to leave and it took extensive negotiations to relocate the Cafe to 329 Cedar Avenue. | Source: Randy Stoecker, Defending Community: The Struggle for Alternative Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside (1994) View File Details Page

New Riverside Cafe, 1972

New Riverside Cafe, 1972

The New Riverside Cafe played a central role in creating and sustaining a counterculture community in Cedar-Riverside. It provided space for activists to organize and mobilize against redevelopment of the neighborhood. It provided an "open stage" for a variety of musicians and became a popular venue for folk and rock musicians. "Boogies" were popular fundraising events for community organizations in the neighborhood. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Creator: Eugene Debs Becker View File Details Page

New Riverside Cafe, 1974

New Riverside Cafe, 1974

When the Cafe collective moved into 329 Riverside Avenue, they thought they had found a permanent home. However, the new landlord was Cedar-Riverside Associates (CRA), who had plans to raze the building. Cafe collective members defended their right to be in the space and battled CRA throughout the 1970s. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: Hennepin County Library | Creator: Linda Gammel View File Details Page

The Watchcat

The Watchcat

Cafe collective member, Zach Zniewski, created the symbol and slogan for the community movement against large scale development in the neighborhood-the anarchist black cat with the words "We Never Forget-We Never Sleep." The cat and slogan were painted on neighborhood sidewalks, houses, trash cans and printed on flyers and banners distributed all over the area. | Source: Randy Stoecker, Defending Community: The Struggle for Alternative Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside (1994) | Creator: Zach Zniewski View File Details Page

Cedar Square West dedication protest, May 9, 1972

Cedar Square West dedication protest, May 9, 1972

The Spring of 1972 was a turbulent time for the neighborhood. The Cafe had helped nurture a thriving community of activists who wanted to preserve the existing neighborhood. Outside the Cafe's doors, the towers of Cedar Square West (now Riverside Plaza) loomed, and CRA's vision for a "New Town-In Town" threatened to replace the whole area. These two visions for the future of Cedar-Riverside collided outside the Cafe's doors during a dedication ceremony for Cedar Square West. On the morning of May 9, about 200 protestors gathered at the People's Center. They were joined by hundreds of anti-war protesters who came marching across the Washington Avenue bridge from the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis police met the protestors and faced off. HUD Secretary George Romney was told about the situation and chose to fly over the project from the safe distance of a helicopter. Refusing to give up, two protestors were able to paint in large letters on rooftops, "END THE WAR-- REHAB NOW." The protestors began to throw the marshmallows and eggs at the police. The situation escalated and a riot broke out. Mace, rocks and billy clubs "raged up and down Cedar Avenue." The riot lasted for a few hours, and ended with several arrests and injuries. | Source: "Violence, arrests in WB clash," Minnesota Daily, May 10, 1972 | Creator: Steve Schluter View File Details Page

Young residents of Cedar-Riverside, 1960s

Young residents of Cedar-Riverside, 1960s

Political activists, hippies and radicals flocked to Cedar-Riverside in the late 1960s and were the neighborhood's newest "immigrants." They replaced the first-generation Scandinavian and European immigrant communities who were moving out, and turned the neighborhood into a center for counterculture activities, earning it the nickname "Haight Ashbury of the Midwest." Many lived communally, shared their wealth and responsibilities with others and did not hold traditional jobs. | Source: Judith Martin, Recycling the Central City: The Development of a New Town-In Town, 1978 View File Details Page

Always Anarchy, 1996-1997

Always Anarchy, 1996-1997

New Riverside Cafe was among the first restaurants to offer vegan options. This food display card from 1997 features an apple-pear crisp made with "no wheat, no eggs, no dairy," but includes-in keeping with the tradition of radical activism-the special ingredient: anarchy. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Creator: New Riverside Cafe View File Details Page

William Teska, 1977

William Teska, 1977

Bill Teska, a minister from the University Episcopal Center who helped organize the New Riverside Cafe Collective, gives a eulogy for urban developers, Cedar-Riverside Associates, after its massive redevelopment plan for the neighborhood was overturned. Initially Teska helped organize the Community Union, a group of residents and activists who sought community control of redevelopment in the neighborhood. They created the Cafe and the People's Center as neighborhood service organizations. Teska advocated collective action so that people had control over their lives. He saw the counterculture community in Cedar-Riverside as pioneers, "This particular neighborhood is an outstanding cultural pocket where a new kind of social culture has developed." The People's Center still operates on 20th and Riverside Avenues. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: "Eulogy for Cedar Riverside Associates," Snoose News, November 1977 | Creator: Timothy Ogren View File Details Page

Street Address:

329 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454 (now Acadia Cafe)
[map]

Cite this Page:

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide, “New Riverside Cafe,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed July 23, 2017, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/6.

Share this Story