Biz buzz // Uptown Diner

Uptown Diner fighting to get late-night hours back

Uptown’s famed late-night eatery, the Uptown Diner, started closing much earlier this month after noise complaints from neighbors prompted a city investigation that uncovered a license violation.

For the six years the restaurant has been at 2548 Hennepin Ave. — and for a year at its previous location at 2821 Hennepin — the Uptown Diner has offered round-the-clock service from early morning Thursday to Sunday evening. It is the only restaurant in Uptown with such hours and has developed a reputation among late-night bar patrons and employees as the place to go for a meal when everything else closes shop.  

But noise from the after-bar crowd is what some neighbors complained about earlier this summer. City Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) said he received six letters of complaint within a week, causing him to check out the diner’s license situation — standard protocol, he said.

What he found surprised him and the restaurant’s general manager, Joe Sipprell. The eatery did not have the required conditional use permit for all-night operation. To get one, the restaurant has to go through a public hearing process and receive approval from the Minneapolis Planning Commission. The hearing and commission decision are both scheduled for July 27.  

As a compromise in the meantime, Remington arranged to let the restaurant stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends, which is three hours later than its existing license allows.  

Sipprell said the license snafu came as a shock to him and his staff.

“Everyone knew what we were doing,” he said. “The whole not having the permit thing kind of slipped through the cracks.”

Without the night shift, Sipprell said he’s had to cut several employees and he’s trying to rearrange things to keep the ones he has left. The night shifts were big business at the Uptown Diner — roughly 600–900 people were served on a typical Thursday-Sunday run, he said. For now, that’s gone.

“Our industry’s been getting slaughtered in this economy and we were still able to supply jobs and now, after a seven-year run, they want to shut us down for one month and throw a bunch of people out on the street? That’s a tough one,” Sipprell said.

Remington, a longtime patron of the Uptown Diner, said he understands the hardship and is “fairly sympathetic,” but at the same time has to take seriously the concerns of surrounding residents. If the complaints hadn’t shown up, the restaurant’s lack of permit might have never been discovered, he said.

How the permit was overlooked is unclear on both sides.

Sipprell said he was unaware of recent late-night disruptions at the diner and has made an effort in recent weeks to police the parking lot and boot noisy lingerers. The restaurant has no outdoor seating and does not serve alcohol.

Earlier this month, Sipprell had collected roughly 1,700 signatures, many from people in the neighborhood, on a petition to return the diner’s late-night hours. He planned to present the petition to Remington.

He also recently attended a Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association meeting to explain the situation and ask for support. He said he wants to work with the neighborhood and be a community asset.

He’s hoping the Uptown Diner’s previous record speaks for itself.  

“I think the six-year history of us being here with no complaints up until recently is a true testament to how we do business and how we view ourselves as a member of the community,” Sipprell said.

The July 27 public hearing and Planning Commission meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. in room 317 of City Hall, 350 S. 5th Street.

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Bilingual childcare center planned for south Nicollet

The owners of bilingual daycare and preschool Jardin Magico at 3836 Minnehaha Ave. plan to open a new center at 3924 Nicollet Ave. S. called Mis Niños.  

Husband and wife owners Natalie and Javier Lopez presented plans to the Kingfield Neighborhood Association’s (KFNA) redevelopment committee in late June. The center would be in a new single-story building on what is now a vacant lot just south of Mulroy’s Body Shop.

“We got really excited when we heard this space was sitting empty in the neighborhood,” Natalie Lopez said.

Mis Niños would serve children from birth to kindergarten, she said, and would focus on Spanish as a second language. The center would create 10–20 jobs and serve 60–70 children daily.

Staff would include native Spanish speakers as well as bilingual employees and the center would be open to children of all backgrounds — parents don’t have to speak Spanish for the program to be successful, Natalie Lopez said.     

The center would also include an outdoor play area and full kitchen. Food would be organic, hormone free and prepared fresh daily.

The Lopezes still need to have their plans approved by the city, but they hope to have the center built and open this fall, in time for the start of school. For more information about their service, visit www.jardinmagico.org.

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Wine shop proposed at 36th and Nicollet

Business owner Binh Le is looking to open a high-end wine and cheese shop at 3600 Nicollet Ave. S.

An existing retail building would be remodeled for the store. Multiple small businesses there are planning to vacate soon, Le said.

The site’s current zoning does not allow for a liquor store, so Le is working with the city and neighborhood to get a variance.

“We’re going to have to make a hard push for the project to move forward,” Le said.

Le also owns Metro Liquor Warehouse in St. Paul.  

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From their farm to your table

Beginning its seventh season, locally owned business Tangletown Gardens, 5353 Nicollet Ave. S., is adding a farmers market to sell sustainably grown fresh produce in addition to its plants and garden supplies.

Owners Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann have been selling a large variety of plants, shrubs and trees from their agriculture production facility in Plato, Minn., to the community for seven years but decided to expand to include fruits and vegetables this year.

They have always grown produce at their farm, but added extra acreage this year to share with guests.

“We’ve always enjoyed growing it for ourselves,” Endres said. “Part of it is sharing what we’ve always enjoyed, but the other part is looking at the big picture and what’s the responsible thing to do in trying to educate the public at large and promote local, sustainable agriculture.”

Endres said all of their plants and produce are grown pesticide-free. The fruits and vegetables are harvested and shipped to their Minneapolis store daily to provide the freshest variety.

“It’s one of the most exciting things that we’ve done new for a while,” Endres said. “One of the reasons why it’s so exciting is we’re able to share something we know is better than most — people try it and realize that a strawberry picked this morning tastes worlds better than a watered-down one that’s been sitting on a shelf in a box for two weeks.”

Most farmers markets are only open one or two days a week, but Tangletown Farm Market is open seven days a week.

Right now, Endres said, they have a variety of strawberries that are smaller, but more sweet and flavorful. Kitchen staples, such as popular herbs and salad greens, are currently available as well as harder-to-find culinary goods, including heirloom potato varieties, sweeter onions, a variety of peppers that are grown for spice or sweetness and eggplants.

“People love the stuff,” Endres said. “We had people come in Saturday and buy things and come back on Sunday because the snap peas didn’t make it home because they ate them on the way and the strawberries are the best they’ve ever had.”

As for plants, Tangletown Gardens offers more than 3,000 perennial varieties and a large selection of annuals.

They also offer landscape design, implementation and maintenance services to help guests grow a healthy garden. Gardens can be complemented with their statues, garden art and pottery that they also offer.

Tangletown Gardens is open year-round. Summer hours are 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit www.tangletowngardens.com.

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A bigger South Lyndale Liquors

South Lyndale Liquors, 5300 Lyndale Ave. S., has expanded.

The wine, beer and spirits store is a neighborhood favorite, offering party planning, delivery and even an elite wine club. Three weeks ago the store unveiled an expanded floor, which was completed over the past nine months by owner Dan Campo and employees.

The 3,000-square-foot renovated area sat unused for almost 10 years after the dry cleaning store, which used to occupy the space, moved out. The space was not put to use until Campo moved back to take over South Lyndale Liquors for his ill father.

As a boy, Campo would walk down the store isles dusting wine bottles to help his father. Now, almost 20 years later, he’s completed a massive expansion and is managing the store.  

What started with an old boiler and a vacated lot became Campo’s community project and revitalization of a family business. Last year, he discovered the heat was no longer working. The giant boiler was inoperable and needed a replacement, which meant the place had to be gutted.  

Campo took the impetus and ran with it, straight through to the back lot that was once a dry cleaner, but in recent years a trash inheritance. Working on weekends, crews moved 16 semi loads of trash out of the area and discovered a ceiling of 100-year-old virgin pine.  

The renovated space, which extends straight back from the front, has a modern feel with high wood ceilings, maroon walls, local artwork of jazz musicians and new flooring. The expansion is a contrast from the old store, but there are plans to change that.

Phase one is complete, but a couple other phases are planned. The basics will include reclaiming parts of the old store, which are currently not in use, finishing the heating and air and modifying the original building to mirror the new area.  

“The back was the start of starting over, of rehabilitating the building and expanding selection and incorporating neighbors’ input,” Campo said.

New lights were being installed in late June and customers were still shocked by the renovation of the old neighborhood store.

“It’s not just a liquor store, it’s a second generation family business,” Campo said.

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Cookie Cart coming to Kingfield

North Minneapolis job-training program and bakery Cookie Cart is planning to open a second shop in a youth housing development to be built next year in Kingfield.

The new bakery would employ residents of the development, which is planned as a 43-unit affordable housing complex for at-risk teens and young adults at 3700 Nicollet Ave. S. Cookie Cart made a commitment to developer Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation to be part of the project.

Though cookies will be offered at the new location, Cookie Cart’s Executive Director Matt Halley said he’d like to try a different concept — possibly a cafe that offers breakfast and light lunch or dinner. Halley said he’d like the eatery to become a community hub and a place for good food, but the mission goes beyond that. Like it’s counterpart in North Minneapolis, the new shop will focus on providing job training and a safe alternative to “just hanging out,” Halley said.

“Unlike traditional first jobs, the emphasis is on what they can learn there and not on the production,” he said.

Employees would be paid for their work and would probably rotate after a year or less, since Nicollet Square is meant to provide transitional housing.

Halley proposed daily hours of 7 a.m.–4 p.m. at a Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA) redevelopment committee meeting earlier this month, but community members suggested staying open later into the evening.    

For more information about Cookie Cart, check out cookie
cart.org.

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Rustica Bakery moves to Calhoun Village

Beloved neighborhood eatery Rustica Bakery will move this fall to Calhoun Village.

The independent owner-operated bakery features French favorites and well-known
classics. Head baker Tammy Hoyt’s award-winning goods have become neighborhood favorites.

The bakery features daily breads, pastries, cookies and desserts. The store is closed on Mondays, but is opened Tuesday–Sunday from around 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Parasole commits to 20 more years in Calhoun Square

Parasole Restaurant Holdings, a prominent stakeholder in Uptown eateries, recently committed to two more decades in Calhoun Square.

The company, which has operated Figlio in the mall since 1984, signed a 20-year lease last month.  

Figlio will close for a few weeks in early September and re-open with a new name, menu and décor. Until then, the restaurant will tweak its menu and offer new “trial” dishes.

Another Parasole restaurant, still in the works, is slated to open at the Lake and Girard streets corner of the mall in the summer of 2010.

Parasole also owns Chino Latino and Burger Jones in Uptown and several other eateries in Edina, Maple Grove, Roseville and St. Paul.