When a University of Minnesota Campus Connector bus smashed into Acadia Cafe this past March, our initial reaction was neatly summarized in two words: holy shit!
That sentiment was reinforced when the Minneapolis bar/venue’s owner, Brad Cimaglio, released surveillance footage of the driver lodging two-thirds of the bus inside the 121-year-old West Bank building.
In the following months, we’d learn little more about what, exactly, the hell happened.
A GoFundMe raised $13,000+ to help pay out-of-work staffers; in addition to a forgivable PPP loan, Cimaglio says he took out an $80,000 loan to keep ’em paid as they found new jobs. Acadia workers expressed “anger and disbelief” toward the U of M’s lack of communication via the Minnesota Daily in April. In a statement to the Daily, a U spokesman noted that insurance and liability concerns fall to the third-party bus operator, Cincinnati-based First Transit, and that the university couldn’t comment while the investigation remained open.
Here’s what we now know, per the UMPD investigation that concluded in May.
“[The 87-year-old bus driver] said that there was a blue-colored Toyota sedan waiting at the red light and that when he tried to stop behind the Toyota but [sic] the bus’s brakes did not work,” one responding officer writes in the incident report. “To avoid striking the Toyota, [the driver] turned the bus to the right and again could not brake, at which point the bus struck the Acadia Bar & Grill.” (An eyewitness offered a similar, matter-of-fact, Milhouse-ian account of watching a bus drive through a building.)
The bus had just one passenger—a 21-year-old student sitting near the back looking at his iPad. He looked up “just before the accident” and tumbled into the aisle, suffering only superficial scrapes. Miraculously, nobody—not the driver, passenger, two Acadia workers, or anyone else near the intersection—was injured. (Semi-hilariously, the report personifies the lone “VICTIM” as “ACADIA CAFE.”)
A vehicle inspection conducted by the Minnesota State Patrol “did not reveal any major equipment malfunctions with the bus, including the braking system” and found “that a defective braking system could not be responsible for the crash,” according to the inspection report. Officials wanted to charge the driver with careless driving, though the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office concluded in May that “sufficient evidence” did not exist to meet that burden of proof.
“We’re probably never actually going to know what happened,” says Katie Essler, Acadia’s general manager. “The best running theory, and this is speculation, is that the road was reflecting off our windows, and it looked like the right turn lane. But it was just the windows…”
“People make mistakes at work all the time, and his mistake just happened to be a big one,” adds Cimaglio, who purchased Acadia in 2020 and immediately invested “a ton of money” to upgrade the space.
Acadia is currently stuck in insurance limbo. Repair costs will approach $200,000, Cimaglio says, and the bar has paid over $100,000 in expenses since the crash. The owner suspects his landlord, Mutual Management Co., will face a similar repair bill for damage to the historic building’s exterior.
Cimaglio, who also owns both Black Coffee & Waffle Bar locations, isn’t giving up on Acadia. The permitting process is underway for repairs, even though it’s unclear how much of the bill will be footed by insurance. Making matters more expensive: Getting the ancient building up to modern code. “Our actual bar doesn’t just have to be rebuilt—it has to be moved nine inches forward to meet a certain code, for example,” Cimaglio reports. But the owner and his GM are confident Acadia could be up ‘n’ running by next January, almost a full year removed from the strange crash.
“It wouldn’t be a fun story if anyone had been hurt, but everyone got out unscathed, at least physically,” Essler says. “So now we kinda get to laugh about it, which is nice.”