An East Coast vibe at Minneapolis prices

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September 6, 2004 // UPDATED 3:57 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Ellen P. Gabler
Ellen P. Gabler

Barflies make a scene in the Theatre District

Barfly

711 Hennepin Ave. S.

Thursday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.

Entry: $5 cover charge doesn't kick in until 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday

It's hard to know what to expect from a club whose frequently touted tag line is, "more quaint than a club, more liberal than a lounge" -- let alone one tucked into such a nondescript-concrete block as the old Skyway Theater building -- but scenesters can rest assured: Barfly offers a cool new place to dance, drink or hang out with friends.

What's hot

Step out of 21st-century Minnesota and into the East Coast/Miami a la 1975. With low-to-the-ground seating, fluorescent lights and go-go dancers, Barfly brings a unique feel to the Historic Hennepin Theatre District.

There are lots of different places to sit, stand or shake it at this windowless wonder. With seating in the sidewalk caf/, a VIP room and six or seven lounges spread throughout the cavernous club, you'll likely find a suitable spot to chill. Little coves tucked throughout the bar can turn the big-party atmosphere into a more intimate affair (i.e. "more quaint than a club").

While the d/cor is '70s, the music is not. A DJ spins house, disco and '80s remixes throughout the night. And the dance floor is packed and partying by 11 p.m. (This must be the "more liberal than a lounge" part, although, my guess is that some marketing folks just really dug the alliteration.)

What's not

As opposed to a bar with a dance-floor, this is truly "a club." Prepare for a "scene." It's not pretentious, just really crowded, packed wall-to-wall with dressed-up, revved-up 20-somethings.

Chad and Jake, both 25, didn't like feeling like sardines all night long. "It has potential," Jake said, "but it's hard to move around."

Chad agreed. "They've got a good idea, I just don't think it's as functional as they'd like it to be."

Ladies beware: either limit your drinkin' or head to the bathroom before it's an emergency. The line to the loo reaches 15-girls deep.

Also, regular Barflies should thank the city for passing the smoking ban. Until it goes into effect next spring, your eyes will burn by the end of the night.

The scene

This isn't a beer-chuggin', peanut-shell tossin' joint. Barfly staff keep the place immaculate and, as long as there aren't too many people, will promptly bring you drink after drink so you don't have to fight crowds at the bar.

Patrons gave Barfly waitrons and bartenders high marks for speed, friendliness and outer beauty. "We're trying to create a VIP experience from the door in," co-owner Crissy Kabauuk said.

Many patrons compare Barfly's vibe to that of Block E's Club Escape just down the road at 6th & Hennepin, but they also say they're still enjoying the newness of the place, not to mention the most-often cheaper or even nonexistent cover charge.

The crowd

Fairly attractive revelers swarm the club most nights, with barflies in their mid-20s ruling the roost.

Kabauuk described the weekday crew as mostly an "upscale, young business crowd," with the addition of a Thursday-night artsy/theater bunch. On weekends, it's pretty diverse.

Barfly could make a name for itself as a good pick-up joint; both genders (and the place is about 50/50) seemed impressed with the potential of love -- or lust -- in the air.

Melissa, 29, gave Barfly a "total thumbs up." She said she enjoys the music, fast lines to the bar and the fact that "there's lots of guys." Plus, added Paul, a 25-year-old who looked like he'd never had a hard time getting a date, "The girls are gorgeous."

Drinks

Despite aiming for a chic, upscale feel, Barfly won't suck up your cash.

Kabauuk said they went with an "East Coast feel, but not East Coast prices -- because this is Minneapolis."

Bottles of domestic beers run around $4; a rum and coke, $4.50. On the higher end, martinis are $7.50-$8, and bottle service is available. Most guests say drinks are poured sufficiently stiff.

Kabauuk said she expects to add happy hour(s) and specials later this year.

The verdict

If you're into the hip hoppin' club scene, join in. And for laid-back bar folks, Barfly could be a great way to spice up those Miller Lite-nights.