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Searching for Pig's Eye, Minn.

John Moe

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Maharaja's owner John Pfeifer
(John Moe)
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George Kappas: You can be a bookie, you can be a druggie, you can be anything you want.

That's George Kappas, owner of the Gopher Bar. His mom and dad opened it in 1933.

George: And you're safe in the Gopher. Just a sec--Cheri! Come on over here.

We're joined by George's wife Cheri who's worked here for 26 years.

Cheri Kappas: There's various gun holes in the walls.

John Moe: Gun holes? Where?

Cheri: There's one behind the bar. There where the straw's sticking through. That was an accident. There's another up above the Leinenkugel's sign. That's an accident too. No more guns in here unless you're a permit holder and you know how to shoot the damn thing.

John Moe: I noticed more than one Confederate flag, stars and bars. What's the significance of that?

Cheri: Well the original was a gift to my husband George. You're not a racist because you hang up a flag. You're a racist because you treat people differently. We treat everybody here like crap. So if you don't want to be treated like crap, you're in the wrong place.

The Gopher Bar is a Pig's Eye place, not a St. Paul place. But just as the city does a short term spruce up for the convention, Cheri says there's a long term image change in St Paul as well. Places like the Gopher Bar, Pig's Eye places, used to be common. But development has moved in the opposite direction.

Cheri: Well, downtown is pretty dead. That's all they want down here is banks and insurance companies, which there is no nightlife. I think they'd like to make Minnesota a dry state.

Many similar family-owned bars have closed in recent years. So how is the Gopher Bar preparing for the Republicans? They're just trying to survive.

Cheri: I'm hoping we get some sort of business. Other than that, we're playing it by ear. If we're dead the first couple of days we'll probably close for the whole entire time.

Meanwhile, on the other side of downtown, there's the neighborhood around the Xcel Energy Center. There are nice hotels, fancy restaurants, and Maharaja's. The Pig's Eye answer to the St Paul being presented on TV next week. Owner John Pfeifer sells rock memorabilia, old action figures, numchucks and posters.

John Pfeifer: We can walk on back to our black light room. We've got a 3-D black light room that's--we've got a yellow brick road that looks like if you look down it looks like if you stepped off it you'd step into water.

John Moe: Describe what's in this display case.

John Pfeifer: Water pipes.

John Moe: Water pipes used to smoke...

John Pfeifer: Tobacco.

John Moe: Tobacco?

John Pfeifer: Yeah.

John bought the building where his store is located 25 years ago, long before the Xcel Energy Center opened up, back when half the street was boarded up. For the RNC, John's already leased one storefront for a temporary cell phone store. And he's finding some other ways to profit from his stone's throw distance from the big venue. There's fake elephants everywhere.

John Pfeifer: We've got 'em from Indonesia, we've got 'em from Thailand, we've got 'em from New Delhi, from Jamaica.

There are a few other minor changes. A display of sweets features a hand scrawled sign reading "Republicandy." But mostly it's Hendrix posters, bongs and business as usual. Pig's Eye lives and happily takes money from St Paul.

John Pfeifer: I guess the way I've always looked at it is we've been here 30 years, and I much prefer to allow people to come into my environment than to have to change and make it comfortable for them.

John Moe: Do you have any Abba wall hangings or t-shirts? Because McCain's all about the Abba.

John Pfeifer: You know what? I believe I do have an Abba tapestry in the back, an old "Dancing Queen" one. Someone else mentioned that--

John Moe: Front window, John, front window.

John Pfeifer: And brought that to my attention, John. And I was thinking the same thing.

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