The site of the former Nye’s Polonaise Room will soon reopen to the public.
Replacing the Minneapolis institution — which welcomed customers for 66 years before it was shuttered last April — will be Sonder Shaker (130 E. Hennepin Av.), a cocktail bar and lounge, when it debuts sometime this winter.
Owner Cassidy Flannery, for one, knows the challenge in following such an act.
“It was a pretty special place,” said Flannery, who called himself a Nye’s “regular” for its last two years. “Nye’s was such a staple in the community and obviously we’re never going to be able to replace what they were, but we’re going to approach hospitality the same way. We’re going to welcome everyone in, and treat everyone really well.”
The focus at Sonder will be classic cocktails with modern twists, an echo of Flannery’s upbringing. The name is an obscure reference to a YouTube series that defines it as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
A New Glarus, Wis., native, Flannery grew up on the second floor of a supper club that his parents ran for 35 years. “My living room was pretty much their bar,” he said.
His mother tended bar and gained a reputation for her classic Old-Fashioned, as well as her recipes for a whiskey blend and house-made bitters. Flannery — who later bartended his way through college in La Crosse, Wis. — will be replicating these at Sonder.
“We want to make classic, Prohibition-style cocktails, but make them more approachable and a little more fun, because a lot of people might think of classic cocktails as a little intimidating, pretentious, and we want to be more like a neighborhood bar,” said Flannery, who currently works for Target headquarters.
Sonder, which is on top of where the Nye’s parking lot used to be, is part of the block's redevelopment project that also will house retail and residential.
In a space that will seat 70 (with perhaps 14 more outside during summer patio season), Sonder will also serve a small menu of laid-back sandwiches and dishes — such as oysters — to pair with the drinks. Many of those recipes originate from the travels of Flannery and his business partners, Leo Mao and Wes Watson. A chef’s table will align with a 14-seat bar for a communal feel, and most of the table seating will be lounge-style.
Construction will begin next week, and the plan is to open before the Super Bowl in February.
(Do you miss Nye's? Read more about the classic bar's fond farewell here.)