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January 10, 2005 // UPDATED 1:47 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Nicollet Island/East Bank

The Aster Caf, 125 SE Main St., has temporarily closed for a major renovation.

John Rimarcik, who owns the St. Anthony Main movie theater building home to the caf, a Segway scooter shop and the restaurant Pracna on Main, said the restaurant will remain the Aster Caf and reopen within two months.

"The place will have a completely different look interior-wise," he said. "We want it to be a place for the neighborhood."

Described as the "cheapskate gourmet's ace in the hole" by City Pages, the caf featured a variety of sandwiches, specialty desserts, beer and wine.

Loring Park

Eli's Bar & Grill, 1225 Hennepin Ave. S., temporarily closed earlier this month and has reopened under new management.

Partners John McKenney and Tai Ipsen are the new owners of Eli's - a popular neighborhood bar and restaurant next to the Espresso Royale Caffe, 1229 Hennepin Ave. S., and across from the Laurel Village apartment complex.

They bought the low-key bar and restaurant from Eddie Nagel, who managed Eli's for 11 years. They plan on updating Eli's interior with a new paint job and have a new chef on board - Gary Stenberg, who has worked at Martini Blu in Uptown and The Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1300 Nicollet Mall.

"We want to put more energy into the place," McKenney said.

The name will remain Eli's, and the restaurant will feature a similar menu. "It's always been Eli's," McKenney said. "We're not here to put our egos in the front window."

McKenney has previous restaurant management experience at the chain TGI Friday's; the Rock Bottom Brewery, 825 Hennepin Ave. S.; and North Loop's Cuzzy's Bar, 507 Washington Ave. N. Ipsen also worked at Cuzzy's and most recently Whitey's, 400 E. Hennepin Ave.

A grand reopening for the new Eli's is planned for February.

North Loop

A veteran wine connoisseur is opening a new wine store in the renovated Pacific Hotel Building, 220 Washington Ave. N.

Sam's Washington Avenue Wine Shops, is set to open in March in the old hotel.

Shop owner Sam Haislet worked as a wine buyer for the Warehouse District's New French Caf before it closed in 2001, as a sommelier for St. Paul's Zander Caf and most recently at the Alexis Bailly Vineyard near Hastings, owned by his wife Nan Bailly. Haislet also co-owned St. Paul's Solo Vino - a noted wine shop he has since sold.

The North Loop wine shop will feature wines from around the world priced below $25 on average.

"There's a lot of stuff out there not represented in this market," he said.

The wine shop's hours are tentatively set for 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; and 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday.

North Loop

A New York or Chicago-style grocer is eyeing the old Smart Set Digital Services space in the North Loop at 800 Washington Ave. N., according to real estate sources.

The grocer would occupy a 8,000-square-foot space near the Latin Caribbean restaurant Babalu.

Minneapolis-based Sherman Group manages leasing for the building. Ken Sherman, owner of the commercial real estate firm, did not return phone calls for comment.

Nicollet Mall

Hamlin's Coffee Shop, a tiny diner near the LRT line at 512 Nicollet Mall, decided to be ahead of the curve and go smoke-free Jan. 3, several weeks before the city's smoking ban goes into effect.

All bars and restaurants are required to be smoke-free by March 31.

Barry Hamlin, who has owned the shoebox-sized diner tucked in the back of the Renaissance Square Building for 26 years, said the diner will feature signs reading, "Embracing the Inevitable."

Hamlin's features a classic diner menu with fresh-baked pies, burgers, sandwiches and its legendary fries.

Central Business District

A new Starbucks is opening this month in the Doubletree Guest Suites Minneapolis at 1101 LaSalle Ave.

The new coffee shop is opening next to the hotel's Caf Luxx, a restaurant and lounge. An opening date has been set for Jan. 17.

The Doubletree coffee shop will be Downtown's seventh Starbucks.

Central Business District

The IDS Center's T.J. Maxx, 80 S. 8th St., is closing Saturday, Jan. 15, after a 10-year run Downtown.

The off-price retailer occupies a 25,000-square-foot basement space in the office tower. All items will be sold at 40 percent off until Wednesday, Jan. 12 and 60 percent off the ticket price the store's final three days in business, said Tom Jones, the store's general manager.

Jones said the store has seen a dramatic decline in foot traffic since Sept. 11, 2001. Its lease expired this month.

TJX Companies, Inc., based in Framingham, Mass., operates more than 300 T.J. Maxx stores across the country. It's the largest off-price retailer in the country.

Besides T.J. Maxx, TJX operates several other large off-price retail chains, including Marshall's.

The company recently expanded its offerings at the Marshall's in City Center, 7th & Nicollet Mall.

Jim Durda, vice president and general manager of the IDS Center, said building management is considering several options for the T.J. Maxx space but declined to mention possible new tenants.

Hennepin Entertainment District

Zeno Caf, a new coffee and dessert bar slated to open this month in the LaSalle Plaza Building at 8th & Hennepin has secured a liquor license from the city.

The City Council signed off Dec. 23 on the restaurant's application for a Class C-1 with Sunday Sales liquor license.

The new Zeno Caf is the second location for the high-end sweets spot. The dessert bar has another prime spot in Uptown at Lagoon & Hennepin avenues.

The Hennepin Avenue Zeno will open in a 3,000-square-foot space next to the State Theater's box office near the Rock Bottom Brewery, 825 Hennepin Ave. S.

Mill District

CorePower Yoga, a new "hot" yoga facility, is opening Wednesday, Jan. 12 above the Caribou Coffee at the corner of Washington Avenue South & 5th Avenue near the Mill District condos.

Tim Johnson, director of Colorado-based CorePower Yoga, said the new, 7,500-square-foot yoga center will be the largest yoga facility in the five-state area and possibly the nation, featuring three heated yoga studios, locker rooms and a shower area.

Classes scheduled the opening week, Jan. 12-18, will be free. The yoga center is also offering a 20 percent discount on class packages purchased online at corepoweryoga.com.

The yoga center will teach a variety of hot yoga classes, including a 26-pose method, "sculpt" yoga and CorePower Yoga - a flowing-style of yoga designed to heal and detoxify the body.

The heated rooms will be around the temperature of the human body - 98 degrees, Johnson said. The heat and humidity levels will be controlled to ensure the safety of the yoga students.

Johnson said CorePower Yoga staff have worked to "create an environment of tranquility," adding the center is designed to attract beginners who might otherwise be intimidated by the practice.

Classes will be offered throughout the day, starting as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as 6:45 p.m. after work.

CorePower Yoga will also offer classes in Pilates, massage and meditation in coming months.

Warehouse District

A new nightclub, Euphoria, has opened in the space formerly occupied by the Empire Club at 319 1st Ave. N.

The City Council approved a Class "A" liquor license application request by the new club Dec. 23. The license prohibits adult entertainment.

The new club will be geared to the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community like its predecessor, Empire, which closed last winter after less than a year in business.

Annette Tracy, a partner in the new club owned by her husband Steve Tracy, said Euphoria won't be an exclusively GLBT venue. "Everyone is welcome," she said.

Euphoria will feature live music, drag queen shows and karaoke. The four-bar club has two levels. The first level will be open to club goers 18 and older.

The club is open seven nights a week, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.

Warehouse District

The Warehouse District nightclub Daddy Rocks has closed at 315 1st Ave. N.

Chad and Josh Junkers operated the club and could not be reached for comment.

The hip-hop/R&B nightclub drew criticism from neighborhood leaders over the years for attracting rowdy and violent crowds. Earlier this year, Dario Anselmo, president of the Warehouse District Business Association and owner of the Fine Line Music Caf, 318 1st Ave. N., called for city officials to crack down on Daddy Rocks and its neighbor Tabu, 323 1st Ave. N., after violent episodes on the streets in front of the bars.

Mark Overby, a commercial real estate broker with Warehouse District-based Argent Real Estate Services, which handles leasing for the property, said a new tenant has not yet been lined up to replace Daddy Rocks.