New Riverside Cafe
The Neighborhood Living Room
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."