Fifty-Four years ago this year, it was 1961 and I and my partner Jim Chimibidis were putting the finishing touches on the new lounge we were opening on Delaware Avenue across the street from the former City Hall. The name of the lounge was The Red Llama.
This was the first bar in all of North Iowa and Southern Minnesota that featured wall to wall carpeting, flocked wallpaper, imported brass lamps from India, no jukebox… we played our own music from behind the bar. No beer signs inside or out. More importantly – no discrimination. Our doors were open to every person during a time in the history of this city when African Americans were not served in the majority of such establishments.
One day I decided to set out on foot to call on those offices that were required to sign our “beer permit application.” They were the Sheriff, the Chief of Police, the County Attorney, the City Attorney and the Fire Chief. Five signatures in all. Stanly McClintock was then the Chief of Police, and I stood in front of his desk in the old police station on Washington Avenue. I was 27 years old waiting for him to speak; and these were his exact words: “I’m not going to sign any permit for a Greek wearing a beard.” Jim Chimbidis was Greek and he had a beard. I calmly reached for the application papers, turned around and left.
On that day I could only obtain 3 signatures, I cannot recall who the other official were that refused to sign but the City Council voted to issue the permit with only three signatures. I have been in business in this city for over 60 years and during that time a lot of things have changed… but not everything.
Peter Children, Mason City