Biz buzz: Times, they are a-changing

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July 20, 2009 // UPDATED 9:06 am - July 20, 2009
By: Downtown Journal staff
Downtown Journal staff

Charles Lodge, the owner of Chiang Mai Thai at 3001 Hennepin Avenue, is looking to start a new venture at 201 E. Hennepin Ave., the building that formerly housed the Times Bar and Cafe.  

Lodge said after talking to the owners of the building, which has been vacant since February, the plans for a new restaurant were “off to the races.” The new restaurant, Ginger Hop, is slated to open Sept. 15. Lodge is currently going through the city’s licensing process and waiting on approval for construction.

The new restaurant will serve a wide assortment of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes.

“It’ll be kind of a general smattering of the classics from the region,” Lodge said.

Lodge said he looks forward to getting an Asian footprint in an area that formerly didn’t offer much Asian cuisine.

“I think it’ll be a good addition to that neighborhood,” he said.

Chiang Mai Thai, in Calhoun Square, will remain open and unchanged.

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As part of an ongoing effort to draw crowds to the Warehouse District, the Warehouse District Business Association is kicking off a promotion that will consist of three drawings throughout the summer. Winners will receive prize packages with gift certificates for restaurants, bars, lodging, valet services, ice cream, a Lynx game and breakfast at the Loon Café — everything necessary for a night on the town and then some.

The campaign, Keys to the Warehouse District, is running in conjunction with the district’s Big Deal Cards, available since December 2008, which entitle cardholders to an assortment of special offers. The cards are available for free online and at participating businesses.

New and existing card owners will automatically be entered into the drawings. People may also enter the drawings by dropping off their business cards at participating restaurants and bars. Drawings will be held Aug. 15 and Sept. 15.

Joanne Kaufman, executive director of the WDBA, said with the promotion, the group hopes to introduce people to the area and show them all that it has to offer.  

“As our logo says, ‘it’s all here,’” she said. “That kind of sums it all up. We just want to let people know that.”

While it’s unsure whether the campaign will continue next summer, the Big Deal Cards are ongoing and their specials change frequently, Kaufman said.

Participating businesses include the 508, Bradstreet Craftshouse, Brothers, Champps, Envy Nightclub, First Avenue, GameWorks, Lone Tree Bar and Grill, Lyon’s Pub, Shout House Dueling Pianos, Sneaky Pete’s and more.

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Minneapolis-based high-end seafood chain Oceanaire filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed four restaurants this month in the face of slow sales and growing debt.

The chain’s flagship restaurant at 1300 Nicollet Ave., one of 16 throughout the U.S., was not among the casualties. Now closed are restaurants in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle and Charlotte, N.C.

The Oceanaire negotiated the bankruptcy filing and closures with its secured lenders as a restructuring to improve cash flow.

“The strategic decision that Oceanaire has chosen to take today will help establish a firm financial base and allow us to implement the operational initiatives necessary to build a stronger and more competitive company,” said Oceanaire CEO Terry Ryan in a July 5 prepared statement.

Ryan said the chain plans to do business as usual at its open locations. Vendors should expect to be paid for post-filing goods and services and no changes to employee work schedules, pay or benefits are anticipated.

Among the Oceanaire’s sizeable debt is more than $31,000 owed to Loring Park Associates Limited Partnership in Minneapolis for a lease at the Hyatt Regency, according to court filings.

The company plans to be through the Chapter 11 process by the end of the year.

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Morton’s The Steakhouse closed its Downtown location July 3 after a “strategic assessment of trends.”

The popular restaurant’s renowned 24-ounce porterhouse steaks and fresh seafood made it a local favorite and it was well known for its famous guests, such as former President George H.W. Bush, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and late Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad.

In a statement from the chain’s Chicago headquarters, Roger Drake, Chief Communications Officer, reported that the business has “offered assistance in a number of ways” to impacted employees, “including the opportunity to transfer to another Morton’s location, based on availability.”

The Downtown restaurant opened in 1991 on Nicollet Mall as one of 79 worldwide Morton’s locations.

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Mairin’s Table at 23 NE 4th St. closed suddenly earlier this summer.

The Moroccan/American neighborhood bistro’s phone line is disconnected and online reservations are no longer available. No explanation is given on mairinstable.com, which is still up and running.