Arden Hills tavern celebrating 60 years


Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern moved to its spot along Highway 10 in Arden Hills in 1959. Current fourth-generation family owner Jack Welsch took over from his father shortly after in 1965 and has been running the business ever since. (courtesy of Google Maps)

The tavern’s relocation to the suburbs allowed Welsch to expand the space. The current building houses a restaurant, bar, rental space, comedy club and a patio for the summer months.

The bar and restaurant opened in 1904 on Rice Street, in St. Paul’s North End. When a new streetcar line was put in, the business lost most of its on-street parking and decided to move out of the city. (photos courtesy of Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern)

Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern is celebrating 60 years in Arden Hills and will be commemorating its anniversary with a pig roast on July 13. 

Founded in 1904, the tavern was a tenant along St. Paul’s Rice Street until it moved to the suburbs in 1959. According to current owner Jack Welsch, the old location often played host to railroad baron James J. Hill, who would stop along the corridor for a drink on the way out to his farm. 

Welsch, the fourth-generation family owner, bought the business from his father in 1965. He took advantage of the tavern’s spacious suburban location to build the business into the complex that it is today. 

“I’ve added on one, two, three — at least four times,” he says. Looking around the wooden, low-ceilinged building, he nods to the billiard room, primary seating area and other nooks and crannies.

In addition to a bar, restaurant, patio and game room, there’s a rental space and comedy club downstairs. There’s also a stage in the restaurant for karaoke and live music on the weekends. 

“We wanted to be a tavern, a restaurant and an entertainment center,” says Welsch. In the late 1960s, he brought in what he calls “the first big-screen TV east of the Rockies.”

At the time, Minnesota Vikings home football games were often blacked out if they weren’t sold out, meaning that the franchise wouldn’t broadcast them locally, according to Welsch. With its massive satellite and northern position, the Big Ten could receive Vikings broadcasts from Duluth and show the blacked-out games to locals.

Some of the tavern’s other amenities also hold lasting historic significance. The bar’s shuffleboard set-up, located in the billiards area, is a 22-foot-long table that was made by Wurlitzer in 1953. 

Out front stands a Howitzer gun that was used in the Korean War, according to Welsch, who was in the service himself after graduating from St. Paul’s Washington High School in 1959. 

“I went to France for two years, then came back and went into the family business,” he says. Even as a high school student, Welsch had cleaned chickens and peeled potatoes in the restaurant’s kitchen.

Now, his son works as the tavern’s chef and his grandson helps out as a dishwasher. They are the fifth and sixth generation of a family that’s been in the hospitality business since the 1400s, according to Welsch, whose ancestors lived in Germany prior to coming to the U.S. 

“Some of our customers are third-generation customers,” he says, adding, “our special through all those years was prime rib and our special, still today, is prime rib.”

Although Welsch recommends that prime rib, along with the Reuben sandwich, its a pig roast that’ll mark the tavern’s 60th anniversary celebration. The Saturday, July 13, event will kick off with bingo at 1 p.m., followed by meat raffles, a buffet, lawn-game and pool tournaments, and then a live band at 9 p.m.

Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern is located at 4703 Highway 10 in Arden Hills. More information and tickets to the event can be found at www.welschsbigten.com.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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