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March 14, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Brothers takes over Rosen’s and Refuge, Drink renamed

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — In late February, folks strolling by the side-by-side Warehouse District bars Rosen’s and the Refuge, both at 430 N. 1st Ave., noticed signs on the windows stating that both establishments were “closed until further notice.”

Turns out, Brothers Bar & Grill, the rowdy college hangout that occupies the same 1st Avenue building, has made a play for the two spaces.

According to Grant Wilson, Minneapolis’ deputy director of licenses, Brothers has applied for “an expansion of premises,” in the hopes of absorbing the Refuge space into its current bar. Rosen’s, as well as the area that used to house District Bar and Grill, will become a new sports bar called Jack’s Joynt.

Owners Marc and Eric Fortney went before the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association board (DMNA) last month, and according to DMNA Coordinator Christie Rock, the board supported liquor licenses for the new venture.

In addition to the Downtown location, Brothers operates 15 other locations across the Midwest.

Meanwhile, changes are also on the horizon for Drink, 26 N. 5th St. The bar will soon be known as Uncle Buck’s.

According to Wilson, Drink owners Mike Whitelaw and Thomas Baldwin have reapplied for a liquor license under a new LLC and a different trade name.

Drink general manager Dan DiNovis could not be reached for comment.

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Neighborhood says no to plans for gas station on Totino’s site

EAST HENNEPIN — Area residents and business owners have put the kibosh on a proposal to replace the old Totino’s Italian Kitchen site with a 12-pump gas station and car wash.

On Feb. 22, the board of the Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association (NIEBNA) voted 9–3 not to recommend a zoning change that would allow the current Holiday gas station, at 107 6th St. SE, to move across the street.

Three-fourths of the Totino’s site — which is bounded by Central Avenue, 6th Street NE and 1st Avenue, and includes the parking lot across from Denny Kemp Salon — currently lies within a pedestrian overlay zone, which prohibits “car-oriented” businesses.  Holiday had envisioned peeling back the overlay zone slightly, and representatives spent the last month meeting with both the East Bank and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods to gauge support for the idea.

A packed crowd filled the back room of Ginger Hop to voice their opinions. Most were opposed to the plan.

Red Stag landlord John Eckley, who also owns City Salvage next door, was perhaps the most vocal critic. He called the proposal “a really disturbing thing to me,” and he feared the creation of “a suburban circus” across the street from his property.

Some neighbors worried about noise pollution from the proposed car wash. Others speculated that the expanded station would attract commuters and cause traffic congestion in the eclectic walking neighborhood.

Katie Greene and Gwen Engelbert, owners of Key North Boutique, submitted a letter of opposition to the board, which noted that any variance “would set a precedent for further objectionable development.”

NIEBNA Chair Victor Grambsch also took the long view. Today, Holiday pledges to consider the neighborhood with its gas station design, he said. But with a permanent change in the zoning, “Their successors can build anything they want,” he said.

Holiday’s vice president of real estate David Hoeschen said after the meeting that the idea would most likely be shelved. A zoning change would require an uphill battle with the city, he said, and it doesn’t make sense to take on that headache without neighborhood support.

But the vote drew new attention to the decrepit Totino’s building, which has become a blighted site after sitting vacant for years.

As neighbors left the Feb. 22 meeting, one member of the Totino family stood up and asked the group, “What would you like to see go in there?”

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Dogwood to open ‘coffee lab’ in Northeast

NORTHEAST PARK —  Dogwood Coffee is building a new roastery and lab at the Frost building at 1209 Tyler St. NE.

“We’re getting deeper and deeper into coffee,” said Greg Hoyt, a co-owner of Dogwood with Dan Anderson. “We’re fine-tuning the craft.”

The lab will allow the brewers to do things like measure the moisture content of beans and see the light refraction of different roasts. The site will also provide extensive training for baristas and Dogwood clients. Restaurants that buy Dogwood Coffee must commit to a baseline level of training so they understand how coffee brewing impacts coffee service.

Dogwood Coffee arrived in South Minneapolis last November with a retail store dedicated to single cup brewing at Lake and Hennepin.

Although the Northeast site isn’t a retailer, it will have an open door for guests when it arrives in May.

“We’ll have the opportunity for people to come by, and we’ll teach individuals how to make coffee at home better,” Hoyt said.

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Tickles closes

DOWNTOWN EAST — Tickles, the only joint in town that managed to be both a piano bar and a gay sports bar, quietly closed on Feb. 28.

A message posted on its website thanked its patrons for their support. Days later, the site was taken down.

The bar first opened a Northeast location back in winter of 2008, at 1032 3rd Ave. NE. Tickles moved Downtown one year later, opening in the former Little Wagon on New Year’s Eve 2009.

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First Ave drops Ticketmaster

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — Starting on April 1, First Avenue will no longer use Ticketmaster for its phone and online ticket sales. Instead, the live music venue will offer tickets through Etix, an international, web-based ticketing service provider. Etix is one of several “alternative” sites that have popped up in recent years, as fans have grown increasingly critical of Ticketmaster’s steep fees.

General Manager Nick Kranz announced the news on March 7, saying that the club would take advantage of the March 31 expiration of its contract with Ticketmaster.

High service fees were the main factor for the switch.

“We’re confident people looking to buy First Avenue tickets will see a major change in both their wallets and ticket buying experience,” Kranz wrote in a prepared statement. He says that with new partner Etix customers can expect a 20 to 40 percent lower price per ticket. The partnership will also allow First Avenue to sell tickets directly from its Facebook page.

Tickets for First Avenue shows will still be available at the usual places: on the club’s website, over the phone, at certain local record shops, the First Avenue box office and at the venue’s next-door restaurant, the Depot Tavern.