Biz buzz // Pizza Luc named Restaurant of the Year

Pizza Lucé named Restaurant of the Year

Pizza Lucé has been named the 2011 Restaurant of the Year by the Minnesota Restaurant Association.

Dan McElroy, the executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association, said Lucé was honored because of its consistency and the variety of food it serves, also citing how well the restaurant caters to groups such as vegans and those with gluten intolerance.

“They’re successful and creative and innovative,” McElroy said. “People in the industry are blown away that a pizza restaurant can be so diverse.”

Corey Sax, Pizza Luce’s marketing director, said the restaurant is appreciative of the award but taking the accolade in stride. Luce shared the news with their social media followers to some fanfare, but won’t be advertising much beyond that.

“It reinforces the idea that we’re doing the right thing and that we have happy customers and a happy staff,” Sax said. “We know we do a good job and we’ll continue doing a good job.”

Past winners of Restaurant of the Year include Manny’s Steakhouse and Mancini’s in St. Paul. The award is based on a nomination process and then voting by member restaurants.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association has 1,700 members and is under the umbrella of the trade group Minnesota Hospitality. Each year the association also honors a “Restaurateur of the Year” and announces new inductees into its Hospitality Hall of Fame. 2011’s Restaurateur of the Year award went to Andy Borg and Michael Paulucci of Grandma’s Restaurant Company and Tony Nicklow of Nicklow’s and Santorini was inducted into the hall of fame.

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Coming soon: Rock & Roll Therapy Room

FULTON — The founder of Rock Camp For Dads is ready to roll out his next musical project.

Shortly after the holidays, Mike Michel’s Rock & Roll Therapy Room will open at 4948 Washburn Ave. S.

Michel said his latest project has a dual emphasis —mentoring teens interested in music and helping adult musicians network and hone rusty musical skills.

“The whole goal is to be the most informative music hub for teen musicians taking the next step in their music career and for adults who need to find resources,” he said.

The Rock & Roll Therapy Room will feature workshops on a variety of topics and lessons. Fees for workshops will be determined on a sliding scale, while lessons will cost a set per-hour fee.

Michel’s personalized music instruction project is in collaboration with Linden Hills House of Music owner Brad McLemore. The two are teaming up to bring in local musicians for Friday night “living room jams.” The idea is to invite established songwriters to listen to and critique the work of aspiring songwriters.

Michel currently plays guitar with Unknown Prophets and Salty and has played with acclaimed folk singer Haley Bonar. He said the idea for the Rock & Roll Therapy Room is a product of long, lonely months on the road.

“I was performing a lot, and to be quite honest after performing and touring I was kind of at a point where there needed to be something more in terms of a community-driven thing,” he said. “It becomes really insular and disconnected from the real world, and I think it’s really important to help others explore their creative side and explore self-expression — that became really important to me after 20 years of performing.”

Michel said the Therapy Room’s workshops will begin next month, with the living room jams debuting in February.

For more information, check out rockandrolltherapyroom.com.

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Uptown bars allegedly involved in illegal alcohol sales

THE WEDGE — Uptown Drink and the now-closed Fusion bar and restaurant were involved in illegal alcohol transactions this fall, city documents allege.

A Licenses and Consumer Services report says Drink was selling alcohol to Fusion in violation of a state statute requiring bars to purchase liquor from licensed manufacturers, brewers and wholesalers.

According the report — which was presented to the City Council’s Regulatory, Energy & Environment Committee on Nov. 28 — Fusion was placed on the state’s “no ship” list April 21 because it was delinquent paying its taxes. But when Minneapolis licensing inspectors swung by the bar on Aug. 4, they found Fusion’s bar stocked with a can of Surly Furious with a born-on date of May 23. For that violation, Fusion was fined $200.

Two months later, despite the fact Fusion remained on the “no ship” list, inspectors returning to the bar found more beer and several boxes of Tyku Sake in a storage room. A shipping label on the top box indicated the sake was intended for delivery to Drink, which is located just a block east from Fusion near Lagoon & Hennepin.

According to the report, Fusion management told the inspectors they were storing the sake boxes because at the time of delivery there wasn’t an employee at Drink to sign for the packages, but a Drink manager said there is always someone at the bar to accept deliveries, adding that his bar doesn’t even sell sake products.

On Oct. 19, a manager at Fusion told the inspectors they had returned the sake boxes to Wirtz Beverage, the wholesaler from which they were shipped. But when inspectors called Wirtz, they were told that no sake was returned.

Fusion and Drink could not produce paperwork demonstrating what happened to the sake boxes, violating another statute mandating that bars keep records and invoices of alcohol sales.

The report alleges Drink was illegally selling alcohol to Fusion, but Drink denies wrongdoing. Fusion was also fined $2,000, plus $400 for having alcohol on-site manufactured after the bar was placed on the state’s “no sell” list.

Shortly after inspectors dropped by Fusion in late October, the bar and restaurant closed. About a month later, with a new menu and following a remodel, the Social House bar and restaurant opened in the old Fusion space.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 27, Drink filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported that the bar owes between $500,000 to $1 million to a handful of creditors. Despite its bankruptcy filing, the bar continues to operate as usual.

Reached for comment in early December, managers at both the Social House and Uptown Drink refused to comment on the allegations. Grant Wilson, Minneapolis manager of business licenses, said in an e-mail that while the Social House has the same ownership as Fusion, the bar has now been removed from the state’s “no ship” list.

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Calhoun Square news: CB2 now open, last-minute festival coming Dec. 17

CARAG — After months of anticipation, CB2 is now open at 31st & Hennepin just in time for you last-minute holiday shoppers.

As of press time, the hip, urban offshoot of Crate & Barrel was slated for a Dec. 10 opening. A report from the store’s grand opening celebration will be included in the next Southwest Journal.

If you’re looking for last-minute gifts but aren’t in the market for CB2’s housewares and furniture, don’t fear — Calhoun Square has your back.

The mall’s Festival of the Last Minute event is scheduled for Dec. 17 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.. The event features discounts for those of us who just couldn’t be bothered to deal with the Black Friday mayhem.

Deals include 15 percent off all merchandise at Fashion Accessories, a complementary gift card from Parasole with the purchase of a $100 gift card and a buy one-get one free sale at Vision World, among others.

For more information, check out calhounsquare.com.

Mike Munzenrider contributed to this report. Got a buzz tip? Email Aaron Rupar at arupar@mnpubs.com.