Nicollet Mall pub, the Local, is about to become a mini Irish empire.
The idea is to expand to 10 locations in the Twin Cities metro, said Cara Irish Pubs CEO Peter Killen.
“The goal is one a year,” Killen said. “I don’t want to say we’re going to become a chain. We’re a collection of pubs.”
The company also owns Kieran’s Irish Pub (85 N. 6th St., Minneapolis, 612-339-4499, kierans.com), the Liffey (175 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-556-1420, theliffey.com) and Cooper (1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-698-2000, cooperpub.com). Kieran’s and the Liffey will keep their own branding, while Cooper will be rebranded to become the Local West End.
Cooper is slated to close for a brief remodel in early 2019. The space will downsize by about 2,000 square feet, have a warmer color palette and add nooks, or “snugs,” to “cozy things up a bit,” Killen said.
The menu will change slightly to match that of the Local downtown. Chef Vincent Francoual, formerly of Vincent’s, is the culinary director behind the menu at both restaurants. (Francoual was recently named Best Chef by an international Irish hospitality association akin to the “Oscar’s of Irish Pubs,” Killen said.)
Francoual is “working hard behind the scenes and upgrading and elevating some of those classic dishes you expect when you go to an Irish pub,” Killen explained. “It’s not about serving whiskey and beer all day. Food is a large part of it.”
A few things converged to push Killen to expand. First, downtown construction on the Kieran’s building and on Nicollet Mall prevented him from making any changes for a few years. Then, Cooper’s lease was up, and he had to decide whether to keep it or let it go.
“We could have walked away,” he said. The restaurant had an “identity crisis — was it a restaurant? It’s got a lovely bar. People were always on the fence of what it was.”
But he realized it was a smaller investment to transform it than to start over. “We’ve got the guts of everything we need there,” he said.
And it’s something Killen thinks the Twin Cities needs more of.
“There are a lot of burger joints, a lot of pizza places, a lot of taprooms, but there are not a lot of Irish pubs.”