On This Date In Twin Cities History - February 23, 1979

Carlton Celebrity Room
Carlton Celebrity Room circa 1980s

On this date in 1979, the Carlton Celebrity Room in Bloomington opened its doors for the first time with country singer Mel Tillis as its opening act.

At the time, he $4 million Carlton Celebrity Room was reported to be “the largest nightclub in Twin Cities history” by the Minneapolis Tribune.

Located at 8350 24th Avenue South in Bloomington, the building that housed the Carlton was originally built in 1961 as a professional bowling auditorium.  The concept, however, was was met with indifference by the public and as a result, the building sat vacant for most of the next 18 years.

The main room of the wedge-shaped, Las Vegas-style entertainment venue, the Celebrity Room, accommodated more than 2,200 people.  1,270 were seated on a terrace-level for dinner and another 952 in a balcony.  There were two other rooms at the venue as well.  The All-Star Lounge and the Backstage Disco which was used as a semi-private club.

Over the years, the Carlton hosted a number of famous acts including Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Loretta Lynn, Bob Hope, Tony Bennett and Johnny Cash among others.  Prince played the venue on three separate occasions in 1983, 1984 and 1986.  The Minnesota Music Awards were held at the Carlton from 1983 through 1986.

In 1986, the Carlton Celebrity Room went bankrupt and the building was razed the following year.   Today, the Mall of America is located just north across Killibrew Drive from where the Carlton sat.

The Carlton Celebrity Room was immortalized in the 1996 Coen Brothers film “Fargo,” when Carl Showalter (played by Steve Buscemi) brings a date to see José Feliciano.