The Uptown Arby’s is Now Closed

With rumors swirling about the fate of the Wedge neighborhood’s most beloved fast food restaurant, I was present for the final hours of the Uptown Arby’s. Joined by four of my best Twitter friends, we ate curly fries and reminisced about the good times.

Employees confirmed that the Arby’s at 1116 West Lake Street is closing, and speculated about a new apartment building taking the place of the single-story drive-thru restaurant. A wistful young cashier spoke of the coworkers he won’t get to see anymore.

After learning of the news, former Mayor Betsy Hodges wondered whether the city might save the historic Arby’s cowboy hat signage.

Has anyone made an HPC application for the sign?

— Betsy Hodges (@BetsyHodges) January 29, 2018

Over the last year, the Uptown Arby’s has seen neighboring properties transformed. The former parking lot across the street has become Uptown’s only hotel — or what some residents loudly complain will be a sex hotel (the Star Tribune found photos on the hotel’s website featuring “half-dressed patrons jumping on beds”). One block to the west, on the site of a former single-story retail building, stands a new apartment building with a small-format Target store operating on the ground floor.

As we imagine what the future holds for this odd triangular patch of land, let’s take a look back at how Uptown’s geography has evolved over the years. In the mid-1960s, Lagoon Avenue was constructed north of Lake Street, cutting city blocks in half and creating what we know now as the “Arby’s Island” triangle.

1961: pre-Lagoon Ave

1970: Lagoon Ave splits Uptown blocks in half.

1974 with original Arby’s building and sign.

In the 1974 aerial photo, you can see the cowboy-hat-shaped shadow cast by the sign, as well as umbrella-covered outdoor seating on the south end of the building. The original structure, like other Arby’s restaurants at the time, was designed to look like a chuck-wagon — a covered wagon used to feed cowboys.

1989 Uptown Arby’s newspaper ad.

Promotional material from Wedge LIVE event held at Arby’s Island.