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Hase Loft owners riding into retirement

Keith and Linda Hase, pictured with their 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, have sold the Hase Loft bar in Bay City and will retire Thursday June 25. He has operated the business since 1964. (Submitted photo)

BAY CITY — “Everyone always ends up at the Hase Loft.”

That saying has been a joke between Keith and Linda Hase of Bay City and their Hase Loft customers for many years. It’s fitting as they’ve had visitors pass through their tavern from Canada, England and Sweden, who were always excited to load up with Hase Loft memorabilia, Keith said.

It’s the end of an era for the Hase Loft and the Bay City community. The Hases are pulling the plug on their longtime bar business in order to enjoy retirement. Their last day operating the Loft will be Thursday, June 25.

“We were planning a quiet exit,” Linda said with a laugh. “But the kids wouldn’t hear of it. They’ve done an awful lot of work and didn’t come to us until it was all planned.”

That hard work culminated in a retirement party June 14. Linda and Keith marveled how their six children sorted “thousands of pictures” to create a video and on poster boards. Linda said she loved to take pictures over the years, so they had plenty to choose from.

The Hases have sold the bar to Roy and Barb Werner of Hastings, who plan to change the name to the River Run Tavern. Keith, who has been halfway retired for 13 years, said he’s not sure what changes they plan to make, but he will have to adjust to some changes himself.

“I’m going to miss the people,” Keith said. “We’ve met a lot of good people throughout the years, especially a good friend from Chicago. I was always an early riser and we were open at 6 a.m. I’ll have to get readjusted to different sleeping hours.”

Linda said the bar was usually open 19 to 20 hours a day.

“It was well worth it to open at 6 a.m.,” Linda said. “We were closed one day of the year, on Christmas Eve. But only for about seven hours.”

Keith attributed the early morning customers to those getting off third shift from the cannery, the sand mine and Meyer Machine.

“Keith had his coffee clutch,” Linda said. “We hosted euchre tournaments on Saturdays. I bet people will really miss that.”

When asked to recount favorite memories, the couple smiled and agreed there are too many to count.

“Not too long ago we were hosting a wedding reception and a relative of the bride or groom got on his hands and knees and proposed,” LInda said. “We had never had that happen here before.”

Keith remembered the fun he and “partner in crime” Shanty used to have cooking barbecued chicken outdoors during the annual Hillclimb.

“We went through 23 cases of chicken one year,” Keith said. “Can you imagine how many chicken dinners that is?”

Established in 1964

Keith was born on a farm in the Waverly/Grange Hall area in eastern Pierce County. He bought the Hortenbach Ballroom in 1964 from Paul and Beulah Hortenbach. He believes it was built in 1938-39 on the site of the current tavern, W6390 Highway 35.

He changed the name to the Bay City Ballroom, which drew crowds from all over the region with its old time music. Some well-known bands that attracted revelers include the Polka Dots, Six Fat Dutchmen, the Swiss Girls and the Red Ramblers.

About once a month, the ballroom featured “new time music,” with the likes of Guy DeLeo and Jules Herman setting people’s feet to tapping.

“We also hosted fish frys in the basement on Fridays,” Keith recalled. “All you can eat for $1. But I suppose fish back then was like 13 cents a pound or so.”

On Feb. 22, 1972, the Bay City Ballroom burned to the ground.

“It seemed like a furnace explosion,” Keith said. “The two doors were laying out front. There was an apartment above the bar, and the tenant jumped on the roof and onto the side of the road from the roof. It was about 1:30 or 2 a.m.”

Keith rebuilt the business, dubbing it Hase Loft. It was nothing like the big ballroom, he said, though they had music from time to time. He sponsored many pool, bowling, softball and baseball teams over the years.

Then in 1973, Linda, who hailed from Red Wing, came looking for a part-time job as a bartender. Little did she know would it turn into marriage and business partnership.

“She sure did get a full-time job,” Keith smiled. “It’s lasted her 41 years.”

Linda has been in charge of the bar’s bookwork, as well as helping Keith oversee the Loft’s three current employees. All their kids have worked at the Loft over the years, Keith said.

Keith has five children from a previous marriage, including twins Brian and Brad, Mark, Shari and Jodi. Linda and Keith have one son together, Cory. Their faces liight up as they brag about their grandchildren and their two great-granddaughters, “little dolls,” Keith said.

Spending time with their loved ones is at the top of their list of things to do once the bar has passed hands. You might also see them tooling around in their fully restored 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air.

“We sure get a lot of looks when we take that out,” Linda said.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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