Art by Kim Jore
Live music, worn carpet, colorful bar flies, writing on the bathroom walls, a strong drink pour and trusted bartenders come to mind when the Nestor Tavern is mentioned. Whatever your memory of the Nestor Tavern, a part of Fargo’s entertainment history has passed with its closing.
The Nestor had a history as a tobacco store, cigar store, and pool hall on 1st Ave N, Fargo, around 1913. It became a bar sometime in the late 30s to mid 40s. It has been in its current location on 10th Street and NP Avenue since 1970, under several owners.
The property was purchased by The Kilbourne Group in 2015. The current owner of the Nestor sold his liquor license to Tailgators Sports Café.
The bar held what it called its “Last, Last Call” Sunday night, November 26, featuring a potluck, gathering of friends, and a musical jam featuring some of the musicians who have played at the bar over the years. The event was packed, nearly wall to wall with people of all drinking ages who wanted to say goodbye.
The HPR had a chance to speak with patrons, some online, and many at the “Last, Last Call” event. Some have given permission to use their names, while others preferred to let “what happened at the Nestor, stay at the Nestor,” or, in other words, names withheld to protect the guilty.
The Nestor was a matchmaker. Dianne Hyndman says she met her husband, Paul, at the Nestor, in June of 1972. She recalls the night when she and a friend went to the Nestor after work on a Friday night: “We agreed to go to the Nestor for some drinks and dancing. I believe the band was Desert Rose, a country band.
“After we settled in, her friend, an orderly at the VA Hospital, came over and asked her to dance, then she went to his table, and he introduced her to my future husband. After a small conversation, she came back to me. After telling me the guy was in the Veterans hospital, I stood up to tell him I knew his father and brother, but not him. We accepted a ride home. He asked my friend to go to coffee. She had to work the next morning, so he asked me and I said yes.
After that, he called me to come visit him at the VA Hospital, and the rest is history.” Her husband was a 1 ½ tour Vietnam veteran with six years in the Army. The Hyndmans are the parents of two daughters, one son, and four grandchildren.
The Nestor was a place to gather with friends. Lisa, Karla, and Maribeth are long-time friends who gathered at the Nestor on Wednesday nights for “girls’ night out.” They fondly recall playing the video machines at the bar – particularly the race car games and the video trivia. They remember playing Bingo often.
Lisa said: “We sometimes would be the only ones here, but we would close the place.” They have many fun stories about their bartender, Carl. Lisa remembers Carl “switching pants” with a petite waitress at the Nestor: “He went into the bathroom and came out in these tiny girl’s pants. And you could see everything.”
Karla remembers several times when people would “exchange shirts” with each other at the bar. And we’re not talking going to the bathroom to change. It happened, literally, “in the bar.”
Lisa remembers red velvet wallpaper. Maribeth recalls recovering the bar stools with her friend Paula (wife of most recent owner Doug DeMinck): “We recovered them on top of the pool table.”
The Nestor was music. Lisa, Maribeth, and Karla all say that “good old rock n’ roll music” was a huge part of their time at the Nestor. Grace, a regular patron, says she has been coming to the bar since she was 21, 15 years ago. Grace says, “I’m really going to miss all of the music shows.” Brad Hemerick, who owned the Nestor prior to Doug DeMinck, said his fondest memories are of “the music.” He continues, “It was good old rock bands.” He was happy to see many members of those bands at the gathering.
The Nestor was family. Brad started out bartending at the Nestor for Bill Swanick. Then he managed the bar for his brother, Bob Hemerick, and eventually owned it. Brad says that he is “a little sad that it will be gone. The Nestor treated me well and my family well and I had such good, dedicated customers.”
Doug DeMinck, who is the final owner of the Nestor, was very pleased with the crowd: “It’s fun to see this. I’m not surprised at the big turnout. It’s all the old and the new ‘Nestorites’ that came out tonight. It’s not about me but about the customers who are here, the ones that came to the bar over the years. There is just so much history before me.”
Doug had great things to say about the previous owner: “Brad is the coolest guy in the world. He allowed me to buy the bar – he helped finance and trusted me and it has turned out well for both of us.”
Other guests of the Last, Last Call made comments about how the Nestor was always “welcoming and inviting” and that it brought a nice dimension to the music scene of Fargo-Moorhead.
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