Alleygators Night Club / Spectrum Lanes: Maple Grove, MN

May 22, 2012

Untz untz untz

So a gator goes into a bar…

Located off of I-494 and Bass Lake Road, Alleygators Night Club/ Spectrum Lanes was one of the few nightclubs located in the Twin Cities suburbs. In fact, I can’t think of another night club located in the West Metro, but I could be wrong. Nightclubs aren’t really my cup of tea.

But this wasn’t *just* a nightclub. It was a bowling alley (that’s where the Spectrum Lanes part comes in), restaurant (Garden Cafe, with its font looking dangerously close to that of the Rainforest Cafe) and sand volleyball court all rolled into one. A suburban entertainment complex, if you will.

Gators gonna gate!

Alleygators served the West metro for 21 years, giving residents a place to bowl, eat bar food and dry hump all under one roof, before calling it quits in the summer of 2008. I can’t find an answer as to why — an old review  I found said that management shut down out of the blue one day, placing a sign on the door saying it closed because of “changing economic conditions.”

A reptile in a snappy bowling shirt wants to party with you. Are you down?

Other Internet sources say it closed because of the smoking ban. Whenever I hear that, I call bullshit.  Riiiiggght, because after the smoking ban went into effect, all the smokers stay at home on Saturday nights and do Soduko puzzles in the bathtub for entertainment. Sure, a lot of bars/nightclubs/restaurants closed but smokers still want to party, smoking ban or not. Otherwise we’d be here in 2012 with no bars, restaurants or night clubs. Man up, throw your jacket on, get your ass outside and puff away in the designated smoker’s sty.

If they legitimately did go out of business because of the smoking ban, then hey! Awesome! If a business is kept alive because they only provided a venue for folks to smoke cigarettes, I feel no sadness when they go out of business.

Look at all this sand! If all else fails, they could turn this place into a giant ashtray.

They spelled it “Nite” on their logo but their website says it’s “night .” Likewise, I’ve seen their business name written Alleygators, Alleygator’s and Alleygator all on ‘official’ advertising literature. Well, which is it? No wonder they went out of business — they can’t even spell their goddamn name right.

I don’t have any personal tales of woe about this place because I never went here. I had one “encounter” with this place, and calling it an encounter is a bit of a stretch. I remember a friend of mine mentioning that he bowled here a few times…

And I remember this place being advertised on KDWB nonstop. I believe they always referred to it as Gators Night Club.

*shrugs* That’s all I got. Sorry.

This is a bad pic, but it creeped me out. Look closely and you'll see that this is a Whitney Houston album cover. Kind of weird - this place has been closed for three years. Did someone put this here after she died?

But I can speculate on the debauchery that happened here. I’m guessing they played lots of rap & hip hop music in the nightclub — maybe warming up the crowd with some Backstreet Boys club remix before getting into the DMX and Lil’ Kim tracks. Lots of guys with hoppy beer breathe wearing Izods with popped collars or sporting ugly button-downs like Charlie Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men wears.

Ladies dressed in Express polyester flared black pants and chunky platform Steve Madden sandals.  Ashtrays big enough for a whole night’s worth of smoking scattered around the joint; double the amount of ‘em in the bowling alley. Overpriced bar food only a drunk person could tolerate. Coworkers from the local businesses meeting up for an after-five bitchaboutyerboss cocktail and end up going on a major bender and throwing up in the volleyball court after last call.

Yeah, that sort of thing. Alleygators seems like that kind of place :)

Someone should bring their metal detector here and comb over the sands for loose change and jewelry left by careless, drunk volleyball players.

Alleygators clearly couldn’t keep the party going since today the place is empty. There’s no one showing off their moves like Jagger on the dance floor, there’s no Cosmic Bowling, the sand volleyball leagues meet at a court in the parking lot of a different Twin Cities bar, and Creeping Charlie is overtaking the volleyball court and the parking lot.

What’s next for Alleygators? Well, at one point, a Kowalski’s was going to move in but that feel through. A medical center also wanted the property, but again, it didn’t go anywhere.

This beautiful property can be yours for a cool $3.7 million.

The Alleygators website is partially functioning (the home page works, but all links are broken). It still looks like it’s straight out of 1999!

Don't worry. I don't think anyone's parking here.

So folks, anyone have any memories of Alleygators Night Club/Spectrum Lanes? You’ve GOT to have better stories than what I have!

Volleyball, anyone?

Enjoy the rest of the photos:

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3 Responses to Alleygators Night Club / Spectrum Lanes: Maple Grove, MN

  1. Ryan on May 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    I frequented Alley Gators 1994-2004. I lived in Mound at the time. Alley Gators night club was actually a lot of fun in the 90′s. The people were sociable and crazy. Most people would talk to strangers and joke around. The waitresses and female bartenders were naturally beautiful and kind, not the fake and air head stuff seen today.

    Why did it close? From my first hand experience watching the crowds dwindle and from a niece of one of the 3 owners…. Black males. Black guys started to trickle into the suburbs to hit on white girls around 1999-2000. They never bought any drinks. But they were caught stealing my drinks and many other customers while we left for a bathroom break. I knew two bouncers/security detail. They knew what was going on. So they and the manager set me up with drinks. I wouldn’t drink when they were handed to me. I would instead leave to the bathroom as soon as they were placed in front of me, next to groups of people. When I came, bouncers had grabbed one black guy and tossed him out BY FORCE. We did this 5+ times. This was happening way too often. They received a legal letter from one of the black guy’s attorneys. So the owners stopped that undercover operation.

    Word got out in neighboring Brooklyn Dark hood that there were hot suburban women at ‘Gators. Too many women were being harassed by black guys. These guys would not stop even when told No and No Thanks and Fuck You. I knew a lot of the regular women. Every one of them stopped going because of the harassment and stalking. Stalking to their cars and even following them on 494. One female bartender, I always tipped graciously, told me the owners were freaking out. They didn’t want it to end up like Sharks Night Club. That place changed to an all black clientele. They shut down within two years. The Alley Gators nightclub customers stopped showing up. They tried everything from Cowboy nights, Karaoke, live bands of all genre. Obviously the decor didn’t match the musical ambiance. I remember hearing on the news of several gun fights in the parking lot, but don’t know if anyone was hit or killed. Some black guys were arrested. Maple Grove city council and police chief wanted the nightclub shut down, but the bowling alley could stay open. The real money was selling drinks. They put it up for sale, but no one in their right mind would buy it because of the “demographic” changes. i.e. black guys from the hood coming into the suburbs.

    Sharks nightclub was my favorite until the black people began to show up. The women were hilarious and care free. We danced like idiots, got drunk, made out and all sorts of fun times.

  2. [...] a reader of this blog, sent me this old commercial from Alleygators Night Club. My guess, judging by the choice of songs and the clothing, is that this is from [...]

  3. Kevin on August 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Oops, posted this on the wrong Gators entry.

    I find this writing, and the comment below to be a rather interesting look at this place’s demise. I actually went here a number of times a few years ago since a friend of mine started living in the apartment complex across the street. By the time we started patroning the place, it was already in its downward spiral. Thus, it was never a real happenin’ place, and I think I was only there once during the evening hours. It was never busy either. They had one night that was 18+ (which we unfortunately found ourselves at one evening). There were few kids there, mostly the middle-lower class type kids who couldn’t afford to go/get downtown. It was pretty sad, my friend and I sitting at the bar getting wasted off of Stoli sodas surrounded by young greasy kids getting busy on the floor, sometimes venturing to the bar for a soda.

    Despite the fact that there were few customers who were all creepy, we actually had quite a bit of fun there. But we get into being in gross, trashy, or otherwise offbeat places and drinking (we love going to hotel bars and drinking). But, it also was a raging dump and it smelled.

    I find the Ryan dude’s comment rather interesting. I’d be inclined to disbelieve it was exclusively black males that drove the paying customers away (although it sounds as if he has a pretty reliable first-hand account of such events). My guess would be that it had to do with the changing demographics of the Northwest burbs. The truth is, while Maple Grove used to be pretty classy, since the financial crises and housing drops, more and more, unconventional people not found in the sburbs normally were creeping it. To put it bluntly, it’s now pretty trashy and gross. There is an increasing amount of cultural minorities (which I think most west burb people tend to wary of generally), but there was also an increase of white people who were a paradigm of the white-trash lifestyle. I used to frequent a few bars around there in my mid 20s and I noticed that you’d find a lot of people from the lesser-privileged suburbs, including people who were down-right, straight-up white trash. I remember sitting in my friend’s apartment hot tub and it being invaded by a bunch of trashy, Bud-guzzling white dudes from Albertville (or someplace with an equal ish-factor). Despite them being the biggest bunch of dicks, we actually befriended them and had a lot of fun. However, these were the kinds of people that were moving into houses and apartments that were a mile down the road from elite college-prep schools (one dude lived in a townhouse across the street from Providence, good GOD!!!) and around Arbor Lakes. They were your typical dudes who would get wasted on cheap canned beer and leave the cans littered around the pool, or if they were feeling environmentally conscious, in the general vacinity of the trashcan (never in it). These dudes often patroned Gators and these were the kinds of people I imagine the place started to attract.

    Truth be told, I normally would never hang out with dudes like that. I’m a gay guy and I usually take a bunch of shit from dudes like that. Although these dudes turned out to be pretty awesome (although I am sure they were just being nice in an effort to try and bang my super-booby friend). So yeah, as the places started filling up with trashy people from the ghetto inner-city and white trash people from the outer burbs, I am sure a lot of traditional suburbam people stopped going there.

    Now, I don’t think Gators ever catered to a particularly classy crowd, but it was in a nicer western suburb and it likely received ample business from kids who came from more affluent families in the general area. As the west burbs changed over into a less affluent demographic, a lot of places went the way of the dodo.

    I think you also have to blame the club generally also. Let’s face it, suburban night clubs are not anyone’s idea of a good time. You settle for one of those places. The Myth, the Bird, whatever, they were all the same. None of them provided the experience that any of the downtown clubs provided. I think the allure of those places wenbt away several years ago. I don’t know too many friends who take night time treks out to Maplewood to hit up any of those places now (I used to know some who did though). The suburban night club is the trashy equivalent of a supper-club.

    Anyhow, thanks for your blog. I think it’s hilarious and very interesting.

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