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Maestro of Nye's piano bar for 45 years, Lou Snider dies at age 81

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Nye's Polonaise Room actually consists of a handful of rooms. The one with the piano is called the Chopin Room; but it might have been more appropriate to call it the Lou Snider room.

His portrait may hang there but we're pretty sure Frédéric Chopin never played at Nye's. "Sweet Lou," on the other hand, reigned over the piano bar for 45 years.

Snider took requests, refereed sing-a-longs, and generally provided damage control – passing a microphone around a semi-circle of patrons and helping them feel special enough that many returned to the bar repeatedly.

She died on Sunday at age 81. The Star Tribune reports Snider had cancer. Her obituary says she is survived by her husband of 55 years, David, as well as three children and many nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.

When Esquire magazine named Nye's the "Best Bar in America" in 2006, Snider was featured in their write-up, with a description of the diminutive pianist boosting herself onto her bench with the smoke-stained portrait of Chopin looking over her shoulder.

"Although she is too modest to announce the truth herself, Lou is believed to have thousands of songs ready to dance from her fingers, and she smiles warmly at just about every request, as though she hasn't already played "Unforgettable" eight million times, and wouldn't that be nice?"

The Star Tribune says after her retirement in 2011, Snider continued to fill in occasionally at Nye's.

She told Twin Cities Daily Planet: “It never seemed like work. I went in, did my thing and went home.” As for the singers who surrounded her, Lou said “You knew two notes in if they were excellent singers. Luckily, the majority were good.”

Soon after her retirement, Snider described the piano bar experience in an interview with KFAI.

Owners of Nye's announced more than a year ago that they will close the venerable bar and restaurant and sell the northeast Minneapolis site to developers who plan an apartment building there. April 3 is scheduled to be the closing date for Nye's.

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