These days, it seems like you either love Uptown or you hate it. The dining destination is still home to cozy independents like Lucia’s and Barbette, but it’s also a bastian for bro bars and retail chains. (All Uptown needs is a L.L.Bean to complete its outerwear triumvirate with North Face and Columbia.)
Restaurant chains are taking a liking to the area too — Primebar opened in Calhoun Square last month and Bar Louie’s debut is just around the corner. If you ask me, Uptown could use a good, homegrown neighborhood bar with a stellar craft beer list and locally-sourced comfort food. Is that too much to ask?
Boom, prayers answered: The owners of Republic tell me they will open a second location of their acclaimed beer bar in Calhoun Square, hopefully by November. Matty O’Reilly and Rick Guntzel have signed a lease for the second-level space formerly home to the Independent.
The original Republic opened in May 2011 in the old Sgt. Preston’s at Seven Corners. The pub made a quick name for itself by holding weekly craft beer events (beer school!) and expanding its tap beer portfolio to a whopping 56 drafts
O’Reilly’s Uptown plans call for a total remodel of the Independent’s sleeker, clubby space.
“It’ll be very similar to the Seven Corners location — we’ll strip the space back to nothing, see what’s there and then add what we need,” he said.
He’ll warm up the room by adding timber and brick. The biggest change will come to the Independent’s shabby smoking porch. The under-used space will be transformed into an extension of the interior bar with big windows and more seating.
They’re aiming for about 40 tap lines, continuing Republic commitment to Minnesota craft beers, as well as German and Belgian favorites. The food will mirror the original location, but the new kitchen’s pizza oven means they might add flatbreads to the scratch-made menu.
O’Reilly is no stranger to Uptown. He lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago and spent many nights in this very bar, when it was called the Smiling Moose (prior to the Independent).
The look of the area has changed but that doesn’t mean he can’t bring some of that neighborhood charm back.
“For me, I’d love to maintain that sort of place in the community again,” O’Reilly said.