Biz buzz // Bullfrog going Bulldog

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December 17, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Dylan Thomas, Michelle Bruch and Ben Johnson
Dylan Thomas, Michelle Bruch and Ben Johnson

HENNEPIN — Has Bullfrog Cajun Bar croaked? Not exactly, but it will get an inter-species makeover this month. 

On Dec. 17, the bar and restaurant at 1111 Hennepin Ave. will get a new name, beer list and menu when it becomes The Bulldog Downtown, the third outpost of a mini-chain that includes The Bulldog Uptown in the Whittier neighborhood and The Bulldog Lowertown in St. Paul. A fourth Bulldog restaurant, The Bulldog Northeast, has different ownership and a slightly different menu.

Co-owner Jeff Kaster said Bullfrog was “fine financially,” and that the coming changes were more of “a branding issue.”

Kaster said he and business partner Matt Lokowich set a goal to open a certain number of Bulldogs, and have decided to bring the Bullfrog in line with their other restaurants. He anticipated the Bulldog’s beer-and-burger menu would also have a broader appeal than frog legs and po’ boys.

“The Cajun food, it was great, but authentic Southern people come in and it’s not Southern enough because we kind of dumbed it down for Minnesota palates,” Kaster said.

The Bullfrog paired its Cajun cuisine with a tap beer list that featured mainly pilsners and lagers — clean-tasting, classic beer styles, but nothing like the hop-heavy palate-blasters that many of today’s more adventurous beer drinkers crave. All but maybe two of the bar’s 24 taps will be replaced with the “high-powered Belgians” and “crafty craft beers” found at The Bulldog, Kaster said.

“Lagers and pilsners are great beers, but it’s just not where the scene is at,” Kaster acknowledged.

Nonetheless, he said Bullfrog done well in a “tricky little area” where parking can be difficult, drawing a steady crowd of neighborhood residents and food-industry workers.

The bar was scheduled to close Dec. 16, a Sunday, for light remodeling before reopening as The Bulldog on Dec. 17.

— Dylan Thomas 

A dustup at Dusty’s over live music 

SHERIDAN — It’s 8:30 on Saturday night and Dusty’s Bar is dead. Two men are chatting at the middle of the bar while a solitary woman plays touchscreen video games and nurses a beer a few stools down. The Big 10 Football Championship game and Gopher’s hockey flicker on flatscreens over a long row of empty tables and booths.

“There actually used to be some people in here,” said the bartender, who asked not to be identified.

Until late July, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday Dusty’s was home to a crowd enjoying live music. The music stopped after a business licensing inspection revealed that both Dusty’s liquor license and city zoning did not permit live music. Since then business has slowed to a crawl as Dusty’s waits to see if an application for a non-conforming use permit will be approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The Zoning Board will make their decision after a public hearing on Dec. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall room 317. If the Zoning Board votes denies Dusty’s a non-conforming use permit — which would essentially grandfather them into compliance — Dusty’s will have 10 days to appeal. The final decision on the appeal would be made by City Council.

“Dusty’s has offered music for a very long time, there’s been no incidents with the second precinct police, I’ve had no complaints in my office, [owner Pat Stebe] is very popular in the neighborhood and a really nice guy,” said City Council Member Diane Hofstede, who opted to remain non-committal in regards to Dusty’s pending application.

After conducting an investigation on the matter, the Department of City Planning and Development (CPED) has recommended that the Zoning Board of Adjustment deny Dusty’s application for a non-conforming use permit.

“Dusty’s has never legally established nightclub use, and in order to legally establish the use, which would include general entertainment, they would’ve had to have paid for the proper license to do that,” said Shanna Sether, a senior planner for the City of Minneapolis.

The building that houses Dusty’s at 319 Marshall St. NE predates city records, which began in 1890. A plumbing permit for a saloon was issued to that address in 1893, so it’s safe to say alcohol has been served at the site for well over 100 years. Dusty’s has been in the Stebe family since Pat’s father purchased the bar in 1952. Up until 1999, Dusty’s was zoned B3C-2, which allowed for live entertainment and dancing.

In 1999 the City of Minneapolis underwent a comprehensive overhaul of the zoning code. At that point Dusty’s was rezoned as C1, Neighborhood Commercial District, which forbids nightclubs. Dusty’s is classified as a nightclub because 1) its food sales are less than 60 percent of its annual gross income and 2) it offers live entertainment with up to five amplified instruments.

In addition, Dusty’s is currently operating with a Class E liquor license, which states “No live entertainment or dancing shall be allowed.” To operate as they have been operating for the last 50-plus years they would need to obtain a Class C-1 liquor license.

A concern brought up by Council Member Hofstede at a Sheridan Neighborhood Organization meeting was that if approved, the non-conforming use permit would be transferable to any new owners, should Stebe die or sell the property. In the past, a VFW in the neighborhood that had a non-conforming use permit was sold to new owners, and later it became a problem property the city had to deal with in court.

Dusty’s owner, Pat Stebe, has declined repeated requests to comment.

— Ben Johnson 

Spill the Wine moving to Uptown 

As Sunrise Cyclery reopens in a warehouse at 2901 Blaisdell Ave. S., construction is starting at its old spot on Bryant & Lake, creating a new location for Spill the Wine.

Developer The Ackerberg Group reports that the building will undergo a complete facade rehab, with new windows and “cool, modern wood siding.”

“It will be a pretty significant visual change,” said JoAnna Hicks, development director for The Ackerberg Group.

Hicks said they are close to announcing a second tenant for the site at 901 and 907 W. Lake St., noting that both are local tenants that fit the Lyn-Lake vibe.

Spill the Wine originally opened five years ago Downtown on Washington Avenue. The restaurant recently announced on its Facebook page that it was “so excited” to move into Uptown next April.

A few blocks away, Sunrise Cyclery is stretching out in a space nearly twice as big as its old storefront. Owner Jamie McDonald said they now have separate space for a public shop, allowing more room for people to come in and use Sunrise tools to work on their bikes.

Sunrise also has extra space to house Grease Rag, a group that works to empower women and transgender cyclists. Grease Rag hosts open shop nights on the first and third Thursdays of the month.

McDonald said he is looking forward to the sunshine from windows looking onto the Greenway, and he expects the shop to be painted and camera-ready by the end of December. Aside from the occasional drip from the ceiling and a harder-to-find location off a one-way street, staff seem to be

Sunrise Cyclery hours are the same as before: Monday thru Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

— Michelle Bruch 

New art gallery opening in NE

A new art gallery will be opening in Northeast Minneapolis in January after raising over $30,000 through an online fundraiser.

The gallery, which is named Public Functionary, reached its goal on Nov. 26. Pledges from 230 donors raised a total of $31,010 through the popular crowd funding website Kickstarter.

“We knew [$30,000] was ambitious, but we knew it would be the best case scenario in terms of establishing who we are and what we do, while simultaneously raising money,” said Trisha Khutoretsky, director and curator of Public Functionary. 

The nonprofit gallery has been operating out of a bare bones set-up in their spot on the corner of Buchanan and Broadway since July. They share the one-story brick building with The Lab Digital and Permanent Art and Design Group.

Public Functionary previously held two open house/fundraisers at their 2,500 square-foot space to hear from supporters and neighborhood residents. Khutoretsky envisions the gallery as a welcoming access point for outsiders interested in the Minneapolis art scene.

“The Minneapolis arts scene can be very insider and kind of cliquey, said Khutoretsky. “Kickstarter was good us because it really generated community support that wasn’t necessarily just art scene people.”

NE Farmers Market moves inside for winter 

The Northeast Farmers Market returned Dec. 15, when it moved indoors to East Side Food Co-op at 2551 Central Avenue NE.

The indoor market will be open from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. the second Saturday of every month, and will run through April.

A masseuse, a nonprofit organization, musicians, and crafts highlight the inedible items offered at the winter version of the Farmers Market. Honey, jams, baked goods, sweets, apples and ice cream will be available to fill your pantry with organic goods.

“We’ll have people who need their apples from the apple guy, or their honey from the honey guy, but we do get a lot of new traffic from the co-op,” said Sarah Knoss, manager of the Northeast Farmers Market. 

Knoss also mentioned that they will have fresh vegetarian spring rolls for sale, marking the first time there will be prepared food offered at winter Farmers Market.

Noted 

The Millennium Hotel Minneapolis, 1313 Nicollet Mall, closed Dec. 11 for a four-month remodeling project. It’s set to reopen April 1, 2013 after renovations to its 321 rooms, meeting rooms, lobby area and restaurant space. It plans to donate furnishings from its current rooms to six local charities. 

Club Jäger, 923 Washington Ave. N., is now open for lunch — noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays.

The Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar are planning a New Year’s Eve celebration that will benefit efforts to green the North Loop. Proceeds from the NYE event will benefit the North Loop Neighborhood Association’s tree-planting project.