STEVENS SQUARE — An audience shrouded in darkness sat silent and still as the harmonies of 59-year-old Roland Trenary’s calming voice and mellow acoustic guitar floated through the theater.
Looking nonchalant in a black polo shirt, dark jeans and white sneakers, Trenary inched his tone upward with the words "as eyelids rise," then paused.
"I left out the instrumental part because my mandolin player isn’t here," he said to the audience matter-of-factly before picking up where he left off. "Despise the dawn. For you bet you haven’t slept. While the mercury so cruel, vertically crept …"
Trenary’s mid-song interruption didn’t lose the audience. It was OK at Acadia Café, where a walled-off theater offers a musical experience more intimate than most other bars and music venues in Minneapolis.
"Those other places are just a little less focused," Trenary said. "The audience in those situations is more focused on food and conversation rather than listening."
Fans of Acadia have until the end of the year to enjoy the unique space. By mid-January, the café’s owners plan to reopen the business on the West Bank.
Besides its theater, Acadia is just as well known for the coffee, sandwiches and local beer served on the restaurant side of its 1931 Nicollet Ave.
Juliana Bryarly, who owns the café with husband Ted Lowell and business partner Jeff Werthmann-Radnich, said their lease is up at the end of the year. The trio wanted to eventually own their own building, but the Nicollet space was not for sale, so they started looking elsewhere, Bryarly said.
They initially planned to sell the business as is and open a new café using the sale money as a down payment on a space. But a deal between a potential new Acadia owner and the landlord couldn’t be struck.
When evaluating whether to extend their lease, Bryarly said staying would have been too expensive because of increased rent and needed building repairs and additions such as a full kitchen. "We would have had to throw a good $100,000 or more into a space that we don’t own and that just didn’t make any sense," Bryarly said.
Building owner Tom Berthiaume, who founded Acadia in the mid-1990s and sold it to its current owners several years ago, said the business was a good fit for the space and he’s not sure what will replace it. "We’ll just have to see what the marketplace delivers," he said.
The former New Riverside Café space at Cedar and Riverside Avenues will be Acadia’s new home.
Acadia’s owners signed a long-term lease with the West Bank Community Development Corporation for the new space with an agreement that if it is put up for sale, the café has first dibs. "So we at least have the option," said co-owner Lowell.
Bryarly said several sites were explored, including the Lander Group’s building at 38th Street and Nicollet Avenue, but the West Bank location was the best fit. It’s close to several other bars that offer live music such as the Nomad World Pub and the 400 Bar.
"The West Bank is a fun, happening place…" Bryarly said. "It already has a draw there. A draw for the type of business that we kind of see ourselves evolving into."
Acadia will no longer be a split-room business, something Bryarly said is "hard to give up," but the new space offers many improvements including a completed full kitchen that will allow the café to expand its menu. No extensive remodeling is necessary, Bryarly said.
She and her co-owners are applying for a full liquor license but intend to keep their extensive and ever-changing lineup of local brews. "We’re beer snobs," she said. They plan to transfer much of their old furniture to the new space and hope to bring the theater’s donated colorful guitar artwork and wall-mounted record player that silently spins a busted Santana album.
Acadia will still focus on providing an eclectic mix of original music, Bryarly said.
Many patrons intend to follow Acadia to its new spot, but some of the café’s neighbors said they probably wouldn’t.
"That kinda sucks. I didn’t know about that," said Damian Butzer, a student at North Hennepin Community College, after hearing about the move. Butzer lives near Acadia and said he goes there about once a week to do homework, eat or hang out.
Eating a hot chipotle turkey sandwich and doing college algebra homework on Acadia’s restaurant side Nov. 15, Butzer said he chooses Acadia over other local coffee shops and restaurants because of its late hours, but the new location is too far away. "I have no reason to be on the West Bank," he said.
Brian Just, a musician who used to live near Acadia and has played there, said losing the café will be tough for music fans in the area because there aren’t any other venues nearby. The split space will also be missed, he said.
"Every show I’ve played there, it’s been a good experience just with the low-key appeal of it and the fact that people listen there and they have a separation between the bar and the stage," Just said.
Stephen McClellan, director of nonprofit Diverse Emerging Music Organization (DEMO), which has organized shows at Acadia each Thursday for the past two years, said no other space has been as successful for the group. He said he’d continue to put together shows at Acadia’s West Bank space, but he has his
"I’ve always loved this room because you have the service area and the music area," McClellan said. "I’ve stayed away from venues where the service area and music area were in the same room. I’m going to have to adapt, see how it goes."
Roni Moreno, who has run Acadia’s sound booth since April, said she’ll miss the theater, but is looking forward to the move. Moreno works above everyone’s heads in a tree house-like platform in the back of the theater that is only accessible by ladder.
"I’m excited to be in a new space," she said. "It should be a little bit better, smoother for the musicians who come through here."
She said she’s also wondering what the West Bank crowd will look like. Some of that crowd already frequents the café.
"We’re kind of sad that they have to move because this is a nice spot, but we’re glad because they’re going to move down where we live," said West Bank resident Rita McDonald, who visits Acadia with friend Marguerite Corcoran for coffee and banana bread.
Trenary, a Seward resident who has been playing live shows for a couple years, said he also plans to give the new Acadia a shot. He’s hoping the business will continue to attract an audience intent on listening to local artists.
"For me, it’s always nice to have an audience that isn’t there for music as an afterthought," he said.