New target date for Psycho Suzis opening

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November 19, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

// The sequel to Leslie Bock’s tiki bar will be ready by Thanksgiving //

You wouldn’t have guessed it in October, when the muck of wet concrete and mud swamped the front of the building, but the new Psycho Suzi’s will be open by Thanksgiving. In fact, you might even be able to get a Suffering Bastard, spiked dangerously with 151, on Turkey Day.

Owner Leslie Bock — who has been tight-lipped about her punk rock tiki lounge’s move into the former Gabby’s space at 1900 Marshall St. NE — confirmed that the new bar was “a wee bit behind schedule” and wouldn’t make its rumored Nov. 15 opening date.  

“We’re looking to the 22nd [of November] to be open at this point,” she wrote in an email. “But we are waiting on a few construction materials that have not yet arrived.”

The big hold up? A massive plumbing headache.

Bock’s team has had to complete a major upgrade to the old storm water drainage system at Gabby’s — a project that left the front parking lot a mess for six to seven weeks, visible to anyone driving by. The entire lot was excavated, and a drainage system was installed below ground. The effort cost over $100,000, Bock said, and took much longer than expected.

“That makes my heart sink,” said Christine Levine, executive director of the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, when she heard about the hassle.

Like Levine, many in the Northeast business community are eager to see Bock enact another Cinderella transformation for a troubled area property.

The current Psycho Suzi’s, at 2519 Marshall St. NE, returned life to a vacant A&W drive-in in late 2003. Then in 2009, Bock revamped the notoriously dodgy Stand Up Frank’s — which’s Alexis McKinnis once deemed “one of the few bars in Minneapolis that successfully freaked me out a little” — making it a destination again as the horror/kitsch-themed Donnie Dirk’s Zombie Den, 2027 N. 2nd St.

Gabby’s itself was a raucous bar that frequently stoked neighborhood and city ire with its loud hip-hop nights and off-premise problems. In 2006, police responded to more than 150 calls to the establishment. The city fought back, imposing sanctions, fines and forcing owner Jeff Ormond to end the bar’s popular free drink specials. Ormond, who owned the business for 24 years before selling to Bock this summer, responded with a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2008, alleging that such moves were aimed at driving away his African-American patrons. That lawsuit was eventually dropped, but the saga continued until last year, when Ormond eventually took home about $200,000 in a settlement.

Many view Bock’s ownership as welcome closure to the Gabby’s era.

“We’re excited,” said Bill Kozlak, who owns Jax Café and knows Bock personally from her frequent visits to his restaurant. “Any time you take a vacant space and improve it and bring in more traffic to the neighborhood, it’s great.”

Bob Marget who owns River Liquors, a mere 100 yards away from the original Suzi’s, said he was particularly thrilled about two things: the new bar’s spacious patio, which perches directly over the Mississippi River. “And the expanded food menu. Which I hear is going to be awesome,” he said. “There wasn’t even a grill at the other place over here, so if it wasn’t pizza or deep-fried, you couldn’t even get a hamburger.”

Marget, who has known Bock since he spoke in favor of her bar’s opening at a public hearing eight years ago, said he had also heard Bock was aiming for a Thanksgiving week opening.

As for the current Psycho Suzi’s space, Bock owns the property and has been actively seeking a buyer.  

“I don’t want to close my current location until I know an exact date that the construction will be completed,” she wrote.

So for now, the luau will have to wait. But don’t be surprised if this month brings a hint of the tropics to Marshall Street Northeast.

“Her and her staff, they’ve been our neighbors for eight years, and I can’t think of one complaint that I would have in those eight years,” he said. “They run a really professional ship.”

Talking tiki with Psycho Suzi’s owner Leslie Bock

Leslie Bock sent us a few more details about her new “Tiki Taj Mahal,” her plans to still sell the current location and the odds of her squeezing in a nap while running three area businesses. Here’s our Q-and-A:

Journal: You mentioned the drainage system. And we’ve all heard about a beefed up patio. Are there any other big structural changes you’re making to the old Gabby’s? How sweeping has the makeover been?

Bock: Lots of unglamorous and boring work has been done that customers will not likely notice, like an interior sprinkler system. I would say there is a big transformation of the sports bar into a new retro/semi-Polynesian style restaurant with a larger kitchen and an indoor/outdoor bar opening out to the river. Seventy-five percent of the first floor has been gutted/altered. Upstairs was redecorated only, but has been visually transformed into a tiki Shangri-La. Many items have been recycled. It’s been a giant arts and crafts project utilizing a lot of local artists/craftspeople. The patio will be completely different than it was before and will be triple the size of the former Gabby’s patio.

So, selling the current location is still a possibility? Have you had some interest?

I am planning on selling the current location.  There has been quite a bit of interest in it. At this point in my life, I think trying to open and operate the Tiki Taj Mahal, as well as maintain Saint Sabrina’s and Donny Dirk’s will be enough work right now. I don’t have partners, so it’s a one-woman show. I would rather sell the old location, so I increase my chances of getting a nap.

Is the staff from the current spot coming with you? Anything you can divulge about the new menu or drink offerings? [Johnny Michaels of La Belle Vie and Pip Hanson of Cafe Maude have been designing drinks, and chefs Mike Opland and Jessica Olson (both from Lurcat) and Tom Beheba (from Palomino & Zahtar) have been tweaking the food offerings.]

All the staff is coming to the new location plus about 40 new people, many of who are from the neighborhood and will be able to walk and/or ride their bikes to work. We’ve added items to our menu, including burgers and new funny drinks. We’ve also increased our tap beer to 12 options, plus an additional five taps of different beers in the cocktail lounge.


How are you feeling about the Nov. 22 target date?

Addressing the storm water has been the biggest delay. We now plan to be open before the patio will be completely done (which is not our first choice, but hey, it’s practically winter) so customers will see somewhat of a work in progress. That’s the way the tiki tumbles, I guess. And yes, you can say we are expecting to be open Monday, Nov. 22.