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The bar at the Ugly Mug.

Leah Millis, Star Tribune

Nightlife notebook: Downtown bars get a facelift

  • Article by: TOM HORGEN
  • Star Tribune
  • March 1, 2012 - 3:25 PM

Change is coming to three bars along the 1st Avenue strip in downtown Minneapolis. For the most part, we're talking name changes and remodeling.

Banking on the ballpark, Smalley's 87 Club opened in Butler Square in 2010. After closing the sports bar last month, new owner Russell King is reopening it as -- wait for it -- another sports bar. The Alley Sports Tavern (named for the big alley on the side of the building) is scheduled to open to the public on Monday. The remodeling will pull back a bit on the baseball theme. (100 N. 6th St., Mpls. 612-877-7799. www.thealleysportstavern.com.)

The Ugly Mug has a new owner in Billy Jackson (former bartender at the Loon Cafe). The bar has remained open, but it'll get a name change soon (he's thinking Jackson's Hole). Jackson is renovating the upstairs bar (which was called Roc Bar), with new lounge furniture, a new stage and a different bar configuration. He hopes to add a longer bar on the first floor. The food menu will be revamped, but he's staying with American casual. Jackson is partnering on the new business with the After Midnight Group, owners of the Cowboy Jack's mini-empire. (106 N. 3rd St., Mpls. 612-343-5930.)

Last fall, owner Mike Whitelaw told me he was changing the name of his downtown Drink to Uncle Buck's (snooze). That's been scrapped. The space will now be turned into a Wellman's Pub location. Wellman's has two locations (one with a rooftop) in Iowa and is connected to the Drink chain. Grant Wilson at Minneapolis licensing tells me the new spot is just a name change. Wellman's owner Thomas Baldwin was a shareholder in the downtown Drink, as well. No word if Whitelaw is still involved. If you couldn't tell by the sign in the window, Wellman's will be a party bar, too. One of them reads: "If you like partying then you'll love this place." (26 N. 5th St., Mpls.)

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