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Bars in West Duluth a center for community

By JORDAN HANSON
DCN Correspondent

It is 4 p.m. and the usual crowd is gathered at Mr. D’s Bar and Grill in West Duluth. At one end of the bar, Jim and Judy LeDoux sit and talk, each with a beer in hand. The couple have been going to Mr. D’s for over 40 years. As he held his wife’s hand, Jim smiled, looked around the bar, and said that the bar was its own little community.

“It’s one of the cleanest bars in Duluth,? he said. “The people are all nice and friendly and there are lots of people we know.?

As a whole, bars can sometimes be seen as a negative aspect of a community. If this were true, then having four bars located within a block of each other could destroy a community. Some Spirit Valley area residents, neighboring businesses, and a community policeman, however, seem to disagree with this stereotype.

Sherry Larson, who works at the Quilters Co-op on Central Avenue in West Duluth, said that the area bars aren’t hurting anyone.

“They don’t really cause any trouble,? said Larson. “They seem to be pretty well in control.?

Across the street, Joel Russell at Central Sales was supportive of the bars.

“Any places with lunches as good as the four bars in the area are going to have a good draw,? said Russell. “The people drive by here and see my business, and it helps a lot. I’ve never seen anything happen with the bars. If anything it keeps more cops around the area.?

Casey Teschner has been bartending at Mr. D’s Bar and Grill for four years and suggests a different reason for the neighborhood support – Al Terwey, the owner of Mr. D’s.

“Al gives a lot back to the community,? said Teschner. “The bar hosts a lot of non-profits and benefits for people who have had severe accidents or who have cancer or something like that. Al will usually provide the room rental for free and even sometimes food.?

He says that the generosity and good will of the management has a trickle-down effect for the community.

“The owners treat the employees very well here. A lot of bars don’t do that,? said Teschner. “This helps to raise morale and carries down to the customers and people of the community.?

Some Spirit Valley residents agree. Don Elmore and Kip Mattison are both regulars at Mr. D’s. Elmore compares the bar to the television show “Cheers,? saying that the workers all treat their regulars as if they were their friends. Mattison, who has been coming to the bar for 20 years, says that the main draw of the bar is its atmosphere.

“It is a very nice place to sit and relax after a long day of work,? said Mattison. “At a lot of bars you have to worry about it getting too crazy, but here you don’t have to worry about fights or bad language or any of that.?

Sergeant Chuck O’Connor of the West Duluth Police Station grew up near the Spirit Valley area and knows the community intimately. He describes the locals as being very community-oriented and says they derive their identities from where they grew up and live.

“People who grew up here tend to stay here,? said O’Connor. “There has always been a strong rivalry between the people of West and East Duluth and that rivalry brings the people here together. This used to create a very strong sense of community, but now there is more diversity as far as people coming from different communities. It’s changing.?

The sense of community in West Duluth might be slowly fading, but anyone watching the Mr. D’s regulars gathering around the bar, sharing jokes and stories with some of their oldest friends, certainly wouldn’t know it.