Pioneer Bar returns under new ownership

If you stubbornly refused to stop calling that barn-themed drinking establishment at 323 W. First St. the Pioneer, I’ve got good news for you. The bar’s latest owners — Curt Oberg and Ross “Roscoe” Ferrell — plan to return the well-known watering hole to its old name.

Well, nearly… The bar’s new shingle actually will read: Roscoe’s Pioneer Bar.

The tavern has gone through a host of names and ownership changes in recent months. Most recently, Chuck Koltes operated the bar as Live Downtown. Before that, it was named Oly’s and prior to that it did business as Hero’s.

The bar’s last previous owner had attempted to establish the business as a music venue, featuring live performances almost every night.

“I think my lack of experience in the bar business caused me to make some poor decisions,” Koltes said. “I was very aggressive in booking music five to six times per week and doing a lot of marketing.”

Koltes said he failed to take into account how much slower the summer months are, as college students return to their homes, and locals make the most of warm weather for outdoor activities. As for tourists, Koltes said it was a challenge to pull them away from the waterfront, even though First Street is just a short walk from Canal Park.

But Koltes said he enjoyed the experience of running a bar and the friendships he made. He doesn’t rule out the idea of taking another run at the business in the future, armed with the lessons he learned operating Live Downtown.

"Maybe another time, another place," he said, quickly adding: "Another place in Duluth, that is."

Oberg said he and his business partner, who received their keys to the bar today, plan to host live music occasionally, but not on a daily basis.

“We’re more into a sports theme,” he said.

You can look for more television screens, jerseys and other sports memorabilia to arrive at the Pioneer weeks to come.
Oberg and Ferrell are no newcomers to the bar business. Oberg owned and operated O’Gilby’s at 511 E. Fourth St., until May of last year, when the building in which the pub was located was sold to SMDC Health System. Oberg said O’Gilby’s was a successful business, but SMDC refused to renew his lease. Ferrell was O’Gilby’s night manager.

2 thoughts on “Pioneer Bar returns under new ownership

  1. Welcome back Pioneer Bar. I remember hanging out at the Pioneer after work back in the late 70s and early 80s. Lots of folks from the News-Tribune made this their ‘bar’. Jukebox going, pool games in the back. Even an occasional off-duty police officer would show up. Those were the good old days.

  2. Thank GOD. We went to “Live” one night. Walked in, hated the music, hated the crowd, hated the staff, and walked right out.

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