Quite often I stayed at this hotel in 1995-96 when I traveled to downtown Minneaplois and had no money. Fifteen years later and flat broke once again, I find myself back at the bottom of the barrel establishments in life. The Saloon Hotel (originally Hotel Amsterdam) was known among us in the gay community as a safe, clean and affordable option since so many of us are single and travel alone. At that time, I felt good about the place: clean, no smoking, and largely a gay clientele. I found myself needing the hotel this time because my friend was going to be out of town, and I had signed up for the Twin Cities Half Marathon. The good news is that the rooms now have air conditioning.
The bad news is that the clientele has changed dramatically. What was once a well-known place for gay male travelers to feel safe has now become home to female prostitutes, drug addicts, street people, pimps, you name it. The first thing I notices upon checking in was a handwritten sign saying 'we do not accept Catholic Charity vouchers or Minnesota Welfare cards as a valid form of ID'. Then the parade of prostitutes with cigarettes behind their ears, creepy drug dealers staring at my backpack and looking to see what room I was getting...what a shame this has happened. What was once a gay hotel has downgraded into a makeshift homeless shelter for people with questionable criminal backgrounds who for whatever reason can not get an apartment any other way. The good news is I arrived late enough to where I never went out of my room until the morning of July 4th at 5am to get set for the half marathon. My biggest concern was not about the race; it was about whether my stuff would still be in my room when I got back (it was).
Contrary to what people think, most single gay men are low income or very low income and this hotel really served the community well. It appears these new 'guests' get monthly vouchers and are living at the hotel.
The hardest part for me was that this was a part of my youth and young adulthood. 'West downtown' was a second home to me. I lived worked and played there. I knew everything that was going on. I remember when the Hotel originally opened (the building itself is over 100 years old but the amount of work that went into the updating was remarkable. That was my 1995 impression. In 2010 I'm seeing the signs of derelict people, alcohol and drug use coupled with despair and those who choose criminal behavior as a lifestyle. I see holes punched in the wall. Cigarette burns on the carpet. No working televisions. Bathrooms unkempt. In 1995 there was a television lounge where guests could chit chat and get to know each other. That's gone.
I REALLY want to love this place just because of my attachment to downtown. But it appears that gay men no longer stay there as overnight guests, and social service vouchers that pay for monthly housing is at least guaranteed income. Unfortunately, when people get these services for nothing, or as a reward for their criminal behavior or drug dealing, it absolutely drives everyone else away.
My first question I always ask when traveling to a new hostel or hotel is, would I feel okay about my parents staying here? How about a single young woman? If either answer is no, then I know I won't be back. There needs to be better management that goes after the lowlife and makes it an attractive place for gay men again.
The staff is so-so. Saturday night June 3rd I met the friendliest young guy who was more than accommodating when I requested a room change. When I left on Sunday July 4th around noon, I met a guy who thought he was the Queen of Sheeba and was incredibly rude, indifferent and frankly a snot.
- Also Known As:
- Saloon Hotel Minneapolis