Bar Harbor Supper Club – The Grand Daddy Of Gull Lake, Minnesota


Gull Lake Story 20

The historic Bar Harbor Supper Club on Gull Lake, MN. (Dane Anderson photo)

TODAY WE ARE IN GULL LAKE MINNESOTA visiting friends and locations for the upcoming Woods and Water 2015 event, in conjunction with the 2015 ACBS International Meeting and Boat Show – September 20 to 26.

As the events draw closer, we thought it would be a good idea today to focus on one of the primary locations for the boat show & social events, the historic Bar Harbor Supper Club – which is now owned and operated by our friend John Allen.

Since the announcement was made that the 2015 International was to be hosted by the Bob Speltz Land-O-Lake Chapter ACBS, John and his team at Bar Harbor have been hard at work preparing this first class facility for the big event. Additional dock space is now in place to accommodate 120 or more boats for the show.

Bar Harbor Docks

The extended docks are outstanding and will offer a secure area for both participants and spectators.

Bar Harbor

The existing docks have been extended for more boat space.

The Bar Harbor Supper Club has an extraordinary history, dating back to 1938. Here’s an excerpt from the Bar Harbor website with some of that history, which is fun reading. Dane Anderson and I snapped some fun shots from Bar Harbor for today’s story. – Texx

The History of Bar Harbor

1937: Erv Anderson’s Vision

When Erv Anderson began construction of Big Bar Harbor everyone thought he was crazy. It was 1937, and he selected a site off the beaten path on a channel leading toward Lake Margaret.

The facility was huge with part of the building suspended over the water. A lighthouse greeted boaters and provided a charming dining location once inside. Construction was completed in May 1938. Within a very short time, Bar Harbor fame had spread far and wide. At that time; however, it wasn’t because of the food.

Originally, Big Bar Harbor didn’t even have a kitchen. Early revenues were completely generated from liquor sales and gambling. Yes, we said gambling!

In the 1930’s, almost all of our favorite old nightspots were actually casinos. Technically, gambling was illegal; however, Minnesota had no laws for enforcement. When Bar Harbor first opened its doors, (people were greeted by the sounds of slot machines and card dealers. Erv himself met his beloved Audrey when she was employed at Bar Harbor as a “Chuk-a-luk” dealer.

Bar Habor Supper Club today.

The Bar Harbor Supper Club today is popular destination for both locals and tourists to the Gull Lake area.

1948: The End of Gambling

Minnesota Governor Luther Youngdahl was shocked by the gambling activity occurring at places like Bar Harbor, Breezy Point and Deauville (currently Zorbaz on Gull). In 1946, Governor Youngdahl enacted legislation banning gambling in Minnesota and the merry sounds of the slot machines faded away.

A popular rumor says that the “feds” stormed Bar Harbor and threw the slot machines into the lake. Although a lot of things probably got thrown into the lake from Bar Harbor’s docks, slot machines were not among them.

Gambling was actually very similar to today’s casinos. Slot machines were leased from manufacturers and profits were shared. Another romantic rumor relates that gangsters shared the take from the machines. This is also untrue, but some of them did frequent Bar Harbor and Erv’s brothers often took them on hunting and fishing trips.

Although the loss of gambling was a setback, Erv Anderson was anything but a quitter. He added a kitchen to Bar Harbor and enlarged the dance floor. He brought in big band like Woody Herman & Duke Ellington and soon Bar Harbor was the “Central Minnesota Fun Spot”.

Bar Harbor - 7

The facility is immediately adjacent to Gull Lake and a public water access (launch) facility located across the channel from Bar Harbor.

1949: Winter Weather Trouble

Bar Harbor had a slight setback in 1949 when a severe winter snowstorm coupled with driving winds caused the roof to collapse. Insurance didn’t cover winter storm damage–only precipitation from rain. After much haggling with legal authorities over the definition of “precipitation,” Erv collected enough insurance money to repair the damage.

Bar Harbor, Nisswa Minnesota, 1955 Postcard Collection

Bar Harbor, Nisswa Minnesota, Circa 1955 – Photo courtesy of Postcard Collection

1963: The Supper Club

In 1963 a small building across the road from Big Bar Harbor was remodeled into a small supper club to serve the winter residents of Gull Lake. It was known as Little Bar Harbor.

1968: The Fire

August 8, 1968 – This was the first weekend of big races for the new Brainerd International Raceway. Thieves broke into Big bar Harbor looking for cash. Disappointed that the receipts had been removed at closing time, they torched the building. It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old wood structure to burn to the ground. It was the end of an era, but not the end of the story.

Following the fire of 1968, Little Bar Harbor grew again. This time, the famous charcoal grill, a small band stand and dance floor were added. It wasn’t long before Little Bar Harbor was “rocking” in the shadow of its famous ancestor. As the population in the area grew, the kitchen was expanded again and a patio area was added. Many people have fond memories of cocktails shared and stories told while lounging on the patio or watching the moon shine on the water from their favorite window booth.

Bar Harbor - 6

An artists rendering of Bar Harbor back the day which is located in the outdoor bar.

2003: A New Structure

For more than 30 years, Bar Harbor ran as a successful supper club with a full liquor license. Bar Harbor had evolved from a hot spot for Minnesota minors to a dinner and dancing destination for cabin owners and locals in Brainerd. The Anderson family decided to remodel Bar Harbor in 2003.

The new building design incorporated the original Cape Cod design used by Erv Anderson for the Big Bar Harbor, but also includes the popular charcoal grill and patio area loved by the patrons of Little Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor Supper Club

Today – Meg the dock assistant greets guests with a warm smile as they arrive by water at Bar Harbor.

2012: A Remodel & A New Attitude

In 2012, longtime Brainerd area investor and part-time resident, John Allen purchased Bar Harbor. While the location and history of Bar Harbor were fantastic, the quality and pace within the restaurant lagged behind the needs of the Brainerd area residents. Closed during the winter of 2012, Bar Harbor reopened on March 20th, 2012 with a focus on high quality food, service and a commitment to make sure every visitor has a fantastic experience. –

Bar Harbor Supper Club

Another upgrade under way at Bar Harbor is the Working Together for Clean Water project, restoring the natural shorelines of Gull Lake which is responsible development today.

Bar Harbor Aerial Photo

An aerial photo of Bar Harbor during the 2012 Gull Lake Classic Boat Show. (Photo from the Bar Harbor Facebook page)

The Woods and Water 2015 Pre-events program promises to be an outstanding experience, showcasing the rich history of boating in Minnesota.

If you are planning to attend the events (and we hope you are) registration for both the pre-events and International meetings and boat show are due August 1st – a late registration fee will be charged after August 1st.

Also, as the dates draw closer, if you have any questions regarding the events, such as registrations, accommodation options, travel distance from Minneapolis International Airport, local air service to Brainerd, invasive species laws, etc – you can post your questions in the comment section below and we will make sure it gets answered here as quickly as possible.

You can also check the Woods and Water 2015 website by Clicking Here or the Woods and Water Facebook page Here for updates.

Bar Harbor Supper Club

The theme – The Grand Daddy of Gull Lake best describes this excellent facility.

To learn more about the Bar Harbor Supper Club you can Click Here to go directly to their website, you can also visit them on Facebook Here. Stay tuned for more updates from Minnesota as we visit the various venues over the next few days.


19 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    That looks like an amazing place for a show, wish I could make it.

    I will be going to the Hammondsport show tomorrow morning, with a much larger and smelly Tobler. We are planning on snapping some photos and submitting a story, but I can’t deliver anything near the quality of Texx’s recent reporting.

  2. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    The BSLOL chapter of the ACBS is pulling out all the stops to make the 40th anniversary event one of the best ever. Amazing venue, stunning lakes, great boats, and fall colors. Enjoy our beautiful waters, Texx. We look forward to seeing you, Matt and all the Woody Boaters at Gull Lake this September.

  3. Alex
    Alex says:

    Nice write up as always Texx. Looks like a great venue. Hope to make the event.

    One photo showed many beer taps I haven’t explored. That’s big time added incentive.

    • Scott K
      Scott K says:

      I challenge you to a duel to the end of the row of taps!,

      The XK is running and we have a cabin reserved across the lake.

      …..thanks to Texx’s great write up, we are very excited to experience the area and the event!


  4. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Sounds wonderful….Wonder how I get there, in case I win the lottery…Fly to Minneapolis & drive ???

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Wilson – If you win the lottery you can fly Netjets straight in to Brainerd International airport which is just a few miles from Gull Lake. Then take a limo (with big long horns on the hood) from the airport and arrive in style at Bar Harbor. You will be the talk of the party!

      • Brian Robinson
        Brian Robinson says:

        Delta has two puddle jumpers a day fly in to Brainerd. That’s how my mom and wife are getting there.

        I’m looking forward to it, the 4000 mile round trip tow, not so much.

  5. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Wonderful report on the Harbour club Texx . It reminds me of a slightly upscale version of the “Key to Bala” on beautiful Lake Muskoka , a place where I happily misspent much of my youth

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks CK – We enjoyed our time in Muskoka, and our short visit in Hessel. Dane & I are just heading out to shoot some photos of a cool Century on Bay Lake, Minnesota for the story tomorrow. The good weather is staying with us here in MN.

  6. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Hmmm re weather……,,

    just looked at NOAA weather you have a nasty storm approaching on your 8

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