35th Reunion Banquet



Ham & Grilled Chicken

Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Corn and Roll

Coffee, Tea or Milk

Cash Bar

Black Horse Bar & Grill Information

Phone: 507-399-0933


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Black Horse Bar & Grill




Bill Kozlowski:

Black Horse's proprietor rebuilds his life

and gets back to business


February 27, 2012 12:00 am  •  By Samantha Luhmann / samantha.luhmann@winonadailynews.com


CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90

Bill Kozlowski is back as owner of the Black Horse Bar and Grill

south of Winona after selling the bar in 2000. (Andrew Link/Winona Daily News)


Bill Kozlowski settles onto a bar stool and lights a cigarette on a recent weekday morning at the Black Horse Bar and Restaurant. The stout owner’s narrow eyes squint as a welcoming smile spreads across his face.

Around the corner toward the dining area, a heavy blue tarp hangs from floor to ceiling. Saws howl and a light scent of wood dust fills the air.

Some elements of the bar feel complete, like the booths and folding tables scattered across the floor, the small Christmas lights that illuminate mounted deer, ducks, turkeys and jackrabbits. But the saws indicate there’s plenty of work left to be done.

Bill, the sole proprietor of the Black Horse for more than 30 years, at one point ran one of the most popular bars in Winona until he gave it away for drugs.

He left town to rebuild his life. Now he’s returned to rebuild his bar.


‘A monster business’ neglected, then abandoned

When Bill opened the Black Horse in 1982, as many as 350 people filled the bar for events nearly every night of the week. On Wednesdays comics cracked up the house. Thursdays, the best singers in town competed at karaoke. Bill taught line dancing and let an older crowd polka on Sunday afternoons. In the warmer months it was the place to go for volleyball.

“We had a monster business,” Bill said.

Until he began to burn out.

“He was constantly working,” said Bill’s sister, Marie Schueler. “Every dime he earned he put back into the place.”

Still, he made time to visit his mother every day, who had suffered several strokes and required constant care. She died in 1998. Shortly afterward, Bill was introduced to crack cocaine.

“The day his mother died he started using,” she said. “He lost it when she passed away.”

For the next year and a half nothing mattered but the drugs. The business deteriorated. He continued to use. In October 2000 he sold the Black Horse, giving up everything he spent his life working for.

“Just like my business, I went all out,” Bill said. “I didn’t care about anything, and I never thought that would ever happen.”


Rebuilding away from home

On Dec. 13, 2000, Bill turned 48. Not a single person called to wish him a happy birthday.

That day he admitted himself into a treatment program. He found sobriety in a halfway house in Hastings, Minn. After four months he returned to Winona but ran into people he had used with. He retreated to the security of another halfway house, in Fairmont, Minn., where he landed a job selling cable and joined a fast-pitch softball team.

It had been years since he’d picked up a bat, but at the first game he hit a powerful single. As he ran to first base, he started to cry.

“I had that feeling that you could turn your life around,” he said.

In 2005 he began bicycling in his spare time. He rode the docks and made small talk with fishermen. One day they handed him a rod. Bill had never fished a day in his life. He learned quickly.

“The old timers would holler at me to be quiet,” he said. “I got so excited, I was like a little kid.”

Fishing revived the old entrepreneur inside him for the first time since he left his bar. He bought a pontoon boat and launched Bill’s Fishing Excursions and Tours.

He began booking gigs for church groups, Red Hatters, just about every get-together in town. He was featured in the local paper and on a community television station 20 minutes a day for a month.

“I got that town wrapped up,” Bill said. “I was a celebrity.”

At 53 and five years sober, Bill had built a new life in Fairmont. But his success had stirred memories of his earlier life, the one he had abandoned.

He decided it was time to go home.


New love stokes return to old

Bill returned to Winona in 2006 and got a job driving a public transit bus. After work one night he stopped at the Hei N’ Low bar to meet a friend. A woman approached him.

At 53 he wasn’t looking to meet anyone, but after spending the evening talking he asked Lois Holubar out on a date.

Six months later they bought a home. He proposed in July 2009. They’ve been inseparable since that first date.

“It was meant to be,” Lois said.

They planned on marrying at the Black Horse in fall 2010. They sent out the invitations. Then they stopped by to make arrangements in August and found the place deserted.

The furniture, sinks, doors and windows were gone, along with the furnace and air conditioning. The plumbing was ruined. The second-floor wooden railings were missing, as well as the paneled ceilings, and holes had been knocked through the roof and kitchen.

“We had 375 people coming to our wedding and there was nothing there,” Bill said.

When Bill sold the Black Horse 10 years ago, he maintained the legal title. In September he hired an attorney and with the help of friends and family—and a few neighbors—began renovating for the wedding.

They bought furniture and supplies at auctions, built a new stage and dance floor. They patched up the walls and ceiling and replaced the railings on the second floor.

On Oct. 23, 2010, Bill and Lois were married. In December Bill regained full ownership of the Black Horse.

The bar opened June 2011 with limited hours. The rebuilding continues today, and Bill is planning an April grand re-opening. He said once the work is done the place will be beautiful.

“I don’t believe in junk,” he said.

He still blames himself for losing what he had spent so many years working for. “If I was in my right mind, I would have never sold the business,” he said.

But his 12-year journey—and counting—has given him new life, and he said now he’s back for good.

“I plan on being here until the day I die.”




Directions: Directions to The Black Horse Bar & Grill
34648 Old Homer Rd, Winona, MN 55987

From the West:
These directions start where Hwy 14 meets Hwy 61 (Shopko/Ground Round/Kwiktrip Area)
Trip Total: 5.5 miles

1. Head East on Hwy 14/Hwy 61
~ Tip ~
You will go past:
Sugar Loaf Ford
Huff Street
Winona Health
Fleet Farm

2. Go 1 mile past Harley Davidson

3. Turn right on Black Horse Rd
250 feet

4. Turn right on Old Homer Rd
245 feet

(Destination will be on the right)

5. Enter driveway to The Black Horse Bar & Grill
Prepare to have fun!

(If you go past Homer you have gone too far.)

From the East:

These directions begin at Dakota, MN (on Hwy #61)

1. Head west on Hwy 14/Hwy 61
14 miles

~ Tip ~
Go past Homer, MN

2. Turn left on Black Horse Rd
250 feet

~ Tip ~
If you get to Bundy Blvd you have gone 1.2 miles too far

3. Turn right on Old Homer Rd
245 feet

(Destination will be on the right)

4. Enter driveway to The Black Horse Bar & Grill
Welcome to the party!

(If you go past Harley Davidson or Fleet Farm you have gone too far.)

35th Class Reunion - Class of '78 (Saturday August 17 2013)

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