Even with a new name, 'Legacy,' for many downtown institution will always be The Viking.
It looks like Crookston will soon be home to the Legacy bar, following this weekend's bar renaming contest at Crooks Club. It also looks like Brian Popovich, who submitted the winning entry, might be celebrating with a few friends on his prize, a $500 bar and off-sale tab.
“Legacy” is an appropriate name for the longest-standing privately-owned bar and lounge in Crookston. That name gives it a certain element of class and reflects on the bar's colorful history as well as endurance.
For me, it also conjures up thoughts of a larger-than-life stoic Norse warrior and his magnificent ship, no doubt a result of its earlier incarnation as the Viking bar and lounge. It started out as the Viking when it was built in the late 1960s or early 70s, with the outside décor donning a Viking ship replica atop the storefront for more than two decades until its first name change to Hooters in 1991.
Some fun times were had in the old Viking for folks around my age and older. In the earlier days there was the entertainment lounge, where live bands played every weekend, and a smaller bar separated by a wall on the north side. The only reason I know this is because a co-worker at Country Kitchen got me into the bar once when I was a high school senior. It wasn't very busy on that end; everyone was on the other side, dancing up a storm to the great live music. But since the door guys carded every person who crossed their path on that side, it was safer for me to attempt to get served here. It worked, too.
By the time I was of legal drinking age less than a year later, the place was completely remodeled into one big bar and lounge. That was OK by me; the more, the merrier. Having my 19th birthday on a Saturday afforded me the opportunity to see the place in full regalia right off the bat, although my brothers and sister-in-law watched over me like a hawk to make sure I didn't talk to any riffraff.
Although it was certainly a thrill to be able to imbibe alcohol without worrying about getting caught, just the excitement of the place fascinated me. So many friendly people – some of whom I was acquainted with, others who were complete strangers – acting as though we've been best buds all our lives. And the dance floor – wow! Even though we could barely shuffle our feet among the 200 or so bodies, it was so cool to be on it with that light show I'd never before seen the likes of.
While a variety of ages could be found on any given night at the Viking, it definitely catered to the younger set, what with its wet T-shirt, dance and drinking contests.
The bands that played there were all great, it was really a blast when the show bands like Johnny Holm and Dash Rip Rock took to the stage. I will always carry the cherished memory of when Dash Rip Rock's lead singer and Lou Gramm (Foreigner) lookalike grabbed me from the audience and made me sing "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" in its entirety before a crowd of what seemed like 500 people. Afterward, several acquaintances told me that I did well, but could I really believe them? Seeing how it was the middle of the evening, they might have thought Slim Whitman sounded good about then. Thank goodness Pat Benatar was my idol and I knew the words by heart.
As the 80s moved along, things went downhill at the Viking. Weekends brought only a sparse few who preferred a less hectic atmosphere and/or enjoyed playing pool there. This downfall seemed to coincide with the opening of the bowling alley and greatly expanded bar at Northland Inn, which really packed them in on the weekends and managed to hold its own during the week.
That only lasted a few years before the bowling alley was back at Corral Lanes and Northland's bar was again downsized. Meanwhile, the Viking transformed into Hooters for a short time in 1991 and then Rooters, doubling as a restaurant that served utterly awesome food and attracted a variety of clientele. Business appeared to be good, but the restaurant portion went away only a couple years later, bringing it back to bar/lounge status once again. The name eventually became Crooks Club.
My cronies rarely go there these days. It's nothing against the place; we rarely do the night scene anymore, period. On those rare occasions we do pop in there, like my recent 50th birthday celebration, we find ourselves feeling much older than our years when looking around at all the clientele and workers young enough to be our children.
But it's part of Crookston's night life and when hitting our favorite downtown clubs during an evening out, the night just doesn't seem complete without a visit to Crooks.
Old habits die hard. It took my friends and me several years after the first name change to get accustomed to calling the place Rooters, which by then had changed to Captain Crooks. We simply refer to it as Crooks these days, but every once in a while, the old Viking moniker slips in. And now we have a new name to get into our heads.
It will always be the Viking to us.