Block E Hooters: Delightfully tacky, yet closed

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2010 - 7:18 AM

The struggling downtown Minneapolis restaurant has gone dark, creating another challenge for its former landlord.

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The Hooters restaurant in downtown Minneapolis was a controversial addition to Block E when it opened in 2006.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The party's over for the Hooters restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.

Nearly five months after filing to reorganize under bankruptcy protection, the restaurant's owners have decided to close shop and liquidate the assets.

Brothers Steven and John Marso, who also operate a Hooters in Burnsville under their Twin Wings of Minneapolis name, had hoped Twins fans and a more vibrant downtown scene might pull their struggling Block E restaurant out of the red.

But a sign on the doorway of the darkened second-floor location now thanks customers for their patronage.

When it filed for bankruptcy on March 31, the restaurant owed more than $1.2 million to North American Banking Co. and about $440,000 to its landlord, Block E Realty. It also owed the state of Minnesota about $35,000 in sales and other taxes. The Marsos and their attorney could not be reached for comment.

With Hooters vacating its prime skyway spot at the corner of Hennepin Avenue S. and N. 6th Street, the new owners of the troubled Block E complex have another dark corner on their hands: Sega GameWorks closed its two-story store in late March, and the Borders Books has been empty for more than two years.

Phillip Jaffe, a principal owner of Alatus, which bought the Block E entertainment complex in July, said he and partner Bob Lux don't have immediate plans for the Hooters spot -- or for the complex as a whole.

"Right now we're just talking to neighbors -- Target Center, the Twins, Brookfield Properties -- about what the neighborhood would like to see," he said. "What type of destinations and uses should Block E have that will attract people to come downtown, to make that special trip? It takes a little time to figure all that out."

Hooters -- one of its slogans is "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" -- opened in its location across from the Target Center in July 2006 under a cloud of opposition. Taxpayers sank $38.5 million into the Block E project, and the mayor as well as some City Council members and communities groups didn't think the restaurant's theme fit the family-friendly atmosphere.

The complex has struggled from the start. But with the Twins ballpark completed, Kieran's Pub relocated and new owners in play, many hope Block E could hit its stride.

Jaffe said the brainstorming process will continue for the rest of the year, with cosmetic changes to the parking ramp and some other areas starting next year.

"We hope the public is patient with us," he said. "We think that by being patient and thoughtful we'll end up with a better result."

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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