"We call it tears and cheers"

Russell and his family aren’t the only ones trying to toast the dearly departed and change the melancholy reputation of funeral homes. The National Funeral Directors Association says it is hearing from more and more of their membership about offering food and beverages, according to Jessica Koth, NFDA public relations manager.

In White Bear Lake, Minnesota, Mueller Memorial added 1,700-square feet and renovated its building in 2015 to make it a more upbeat atmosphere. “People used the phrase over and over again that the funeral homes were like a ‘dark lifeless tomb’ with a certain smell to them and certain look to them,” says owner Scott Mueller. “People said, ‘When we go, we want to have a party atmosphere. More of a celebration,'” recalls Mueller. “So we decided to put a bar in.”

Mueller Memorial doesn’t have its own liquor license, but hires a local restaurant to serve the alcoholic beverages, at about a $650 additional cost to the customer for beer and wine. To serve liquor, too, the cost runs between $1,000 and $2,000.

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