Republic settles into new home in Calhoun Square

The new Republic in Calhoun Square. Credit: By Habakkuk Stockstill

The Republic, a craft beer bar located at Seven Corners in Minneapolis, has expanded with a second location in Calhoun Square.

The Republic is located on the second floor of Calhoun Square at 3001 S. Hennepin Ave. The Independent (Bar) was the previous tenant and was in that location for almost 11 years. The Independent closed in 2011 causing the opening in Uptown. The Republic wasn’t planning on expanding to Uptown and didn’t know it would expand this fast in their short bar career.

“Well, we weren’t really looking, but we knew that someday a second [location] could be possible,” said Co-owner of both Republics, Matty O’Reilly. “It would have to have all the right things fall into place…The inspiration was Calhoun Square calling us first and just getting us in this space and realizing how cool it could be over here too.”

The expansion to Calhoun Square hasn’t really affected the staffing at both locations. O’Reilly said that there are 50 employees at each location and that four people from the Seven Corners location were transferred to the Uptown location and moved to management positions in serving and bartending.

“We kept the staff pretty much intact at the Seven Corners location because it is working really well and we didn’t want to disrupt that all,” said O’Reilly about the location 221 S. Cedar Ave. that opened in May 2011. 

The beer list is 60 percent the same at both locations. Both bars sell craft beer (a brewery which produces a limited amount of beer), which is very successful at this time.

“There’s a huge market for that [craft beer],” said O’Reilly, 42, a Crystal, Minn. native. “It’s growing like mad. The new laws in Minnesota allow breweries to have taprooms. It’s more appealing to be a brewery right now than it ever has.”

There makeup of the bar patrons is one of the many differences between the two locations.

O’Reilly said that the Seven Corners audience is students, professors, faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota, specifically from the Carlson School of Management, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the law school along with the Holiday Inn Hotel guests. In comparison, he said that the Calhoun Square location has a late night scene of young professionals because of the people who live in the area in houses and apartments.

“Seven Corners is more of a happy hour, dinner time place where this place (Calhoun Square) is a dinner, late night place,” said O’Reilly.

He also said there is an affluent group of bar patrons from Lake Calhoun and the Lake of the Isles that visit the Calhoun Square location. 

“This location is close to where we live and a little more accessible,” said bar patron Mark Sweeney, who had previously visited the Seven Corners location. “They (Republic) aren’t trying as hard as the Independent did.”

Another difference between the Seven Corners and Calhoun Square locations is the atmosphere of the venues.

“The Seven Corners location has a little more over there,” said O’Reilly. “There is a lot of natural character. There is stained glass that we inherited when we took over. The space at Seven Corners has been a bar for almost 100 years.”

Before The Republic was at Seven Corners the location was the bar Sgt. Preston’s for 38 years.

“We more or less just put a new sign on the door, changed the menus and then three times as many people came,” said O’Reilly.

He added that The Republic is making profits in the millions collectively between both locations.

Lastly, the price of rent is different at both locations.

“It’s more expensive to be on the corner of Lake and Hennepin then it is to be at Seven Corners,” said O’Reilly.

O’Reilly opened the bars up with his business partner Rick Guntzell. Guntzell is a high school friend who had a stint in the Air Force before working in restaurants. Their skill sets complement each other.

 “I was doing all the menu development, came up with the name, logo and design and then he would do all the administrative operations side of it (the business),” said O’Reilly, who graduated from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. with a business management degree. “That’s not what I like to do and he doesn’t like to do what I do. It was a good fit.” 

In general, the audience of The Republic (both locations) is a niche that isn’t for everyone.

“We are basically just looking for smart people,” said O’Reilly. “We just need a certain segment of the population to appreciate what we do… We didn’t put this here to have everyone come in and love it.”

“We don’t go to bars to watch TV,” said Sophia Bera, a patron drinking wine instead of beer.

As far as food, they serve what O’Reilly calls “American pub fare but with more contemporary ingredients…” and that half of the menu is vegetarian.

The Republic does this by using local sources of food such as grass fed beef from 1,000 Hills Cattle Company in Cannon Falls, Minn., trout from Star Prairie in Wisconsin and turkeys and chickens from Wild Acres near Bemidji, Minn. They also get a lot of their cheeses from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The average price for a meal is $10 and the average price for a beer is $5. During happy hour the beer is $3. O’Reilly said that the craft beer kegs cost between $120 and $160 and there is about 120 pints per keg.

The most popular beers at Republic are Surly Furious (only served at Seven Corners location), Steel Toe Size 7 I.P.A. from St. Louis Park, Minn. (served at both locations) and Indeed Day Tripper Pale Ale from Minneapolis (served at both locations).

Besides beer, they have a menu of beverages for patrons of all ages. They serve Dogwood Coffee (based in Minneapolis), hot tea from the Tea Source in St. Paul, Minn., freshly squeezed juices, and homemade lemonade. The Republic also serves wines, cocktails, scotch, bourbon and whiskey.

“We have a sincere beverage program for people who don’t drink beer,” said O’Reilly. “…It’s not just all about beer.”

Eric Mueller is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.