Skip to main content

Allan Fingerhut – First Avenue's original owner – dies

He opened the nightclub in 1970 and owned it until 2004.

The original owner of Minneapolis' storied nightclub died Monday at age 76. 

Allan Fingerhut, an heir to the Fingerhut catalog retail fortune, is credited with bringing rock and roll to downtown Minneapolis with the nightclub that's now known as First Avenue. 

He died at his home in Northern California surrounded by family. His daughter Rain told the Star Tribune he had Lewy body dementia, noting he started showing signs of the disease in the past two months. 

The disease, which also afflicted comedian Robin Williams, is a progressive dementia that causes a decline in mental abilities, with people who have it sometimes experiencing visual hallucinations, rigid muscles, slow movement and tremors, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fingerhut graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1962 and went on to study art and photography in New York before joining the army during the Vietnam War, the Star Tribune said.

He made a name for himself outside the family business, starting in 1969 when he was 25, by coming up with the idea to open a rock club in the former Greyhound bus depot, First Avenue's website says

Fingerhut found a partner with a liquor license, invested $150,000 and on April 3, 1970, opened the only venue in downtown Minneapolis that had both rock music and alcohol, then called The Depot, the website notes. 

The Depot closed in 1971 after hosting musicians that included Ike Turner, Joe Cocker, B.B. King, the Kinks and Frank Zappa. It reopened the next year, with Uncle Sam's disco chain paying Fingerhut for use of the venue through 1979, Minnesota Good Age said.

When disco faded, the venue – called Sam's – morphed back into a place for rock 'n' roll, hosting acts like the Ramones, Pat Benatar, U2 and others. 

Follow Bring Me The News on YouTube

In 1981, Prince first played at Sam's, where he found a home at the venue, which became First Avenue in 1982.

The next year, Prince filmed "Purple Rain" at the club, and in 1984, when the movie was released, it put First Avenue on the map, attracting fans from across the world.

Allan Fingerhut was involved with the club until 2004, First Avenue's website says. That year, he fired the two managers and then filed for bankruptcy following lawsuits with his longtime accountant and friend, Byron Frank (it reopened two weeks later, with the management team he let go at the helm and Frank as the primary owner).

One of those managers is Steve McClellan. In a statement to TPT, he said credited Allan Fingerhut for being the reason First Avenue is still open today, saying: 

"I, having worked the club in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when American Avents dumped the franchise and left it in a very perilous financial state found ALL of Allan’s advisers (present day ownership included) putting huge pressure on him to close the doors. Despite those efforts, Allan did NOT succumb to the pressure and allowed us to keep the place open during some VERY lean years. That single decision on his part allows me to state, with NO uncertainty, Allan Fingerhut can be named THE ONE PERSON to be given credit for the club being open to this day."

A memorial service will be held for Allan Fingerhut at the Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis at 11 a.m. on Oct. 19. People can "attend" the service via Zoom here, TPT notes.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 5.21.04 PM

Ex-South St. Paul coach dies by suicide 2 days before sentencing

Matthew McCollister was to be sentenced for fraud in federal court on Wednesday.

uawgitwa5lpcj158xkfx

Minnesota 'glampground' named one of 10 best in U.S.

In Nevis, Minnesota, campers can stay in a refurbished 1905 train car.

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 9.04.12 AM

Two men charged over terrifying armed robbery at Newport apartment

They shot the woman who lives in the apartment in the abdomen, and put a gun to a man's head.

Minneapolis police

Minneapolis 2-year-old identified in suspicious death case

The cause of death has not yet been revealed due to an ongoing investigation.

Arianna Vos

Victim of wrong-way driver crash ID'd as Hutchinson 19-year-old

Three women, ages 19, 20 and 20, were in the vehicle struck by a wrong-way driver early Sunday morning.

Julissa Thaler

Eli Hart killing: Police investigating multiple crime scenes

An announcement Tuesday confirmed potential crime scenes in Mound and Minnetrista.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota strike.

Twin Cities mental health workers gather for 1-day strike

More than 400 mental health workers are participating in the unionized strike on Tuesday.

Bloomington Fire

HAZMAT team at Bloomington hotel following chemical spill in pool

The fire department said two hotel employees are being evaluated by paramedics.

Screen Shot 2022-03-24 at 9.21.32 AM

Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities gets $6M of Mackenzie Scott donation

The donation is the largest the organization has ever seen from a single individual.

Hennepin Avenue S.

Minneapolis accused of backtracking on 24/7 bus lanes for Hennepin Ave.

The Minneapolis City Council is set to vote on Thursday.

Pexels - face mask covid holding

Duluth brings back masking in city buildings amid COVID surge

Duluth, in one of the state's current COVID hotspots, has brought back a mask requirement in city buildings.

Related

First avenue

First Avenue to host first in-person event since the pandemic began

The storied venue will host its annual Halloween party on Oct. 31.

First avenue

Live music is back! First Avenue announces Dinosaur Jr. concert

First Avenue announced a Dinosaur Jr. concert scheduled for Sep. 14.

First avenue

First Avenue reveals acts for 50th anniversary 'kick-off weekend'

The legendary venue will embark on a year of celebrations starting in April.

First avenue

First Avenue led charge that could save many entertainment venues

The #SaveOurStages grassroots effort was spearheaded by First Avenue in Minneapolis, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar sponsored the legislation to help venues impacted by the pandemic.

First avenue

First Avenue expands its health coverage to include more staff

The venue is going beyond the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

First Avenue's portfolio grows as it buys the Fine Line

It becomes the 5th venue to fall under First Avenue's umbrella.