In December, when Piccolo co-owners Doug Flicker and Amy Greeley announced that they were closing their four-star Minneapolis restaurant – the last day is March 11 -- Flicker added that he was already looking ahead.
“I want to do something else,” he said. “I’d still like to do one more project. It’s just a little too early to confirm any details.”
Now’s the time. The couple is in the process of purchasing the Sunrise Inn, one of the city’s last 3.2 beer joints. They plan to convert the bar -- which has anchored the corner of 46th St. and 34th Av. S. for 70 years -- to Bull’s Horn Food and Drink.
“It’s going to remain in the spirit of the classic, old-time dive bar,” said Greeley. “We want it to be a neighborhood place, and family-friendly.”
Flicker and Greeley are purchasing the building, which also includes a few commercial storefronts, and a parking lot. The plan is to convert the empty square footage that’s adjacent to the Sunrise into a commercial kitchen.
“Right now there’s just a little griddle and a fryer,” said Flicker. “I’m not 100 percent sure that we’ll be able to keep them, but we’d like to.”
Fans of the Sunrise, don’t worry: the room’s well-worn fixtures aren’t going anywhere.
“There’s a gorgeous wooden bar, with wooden-front coolers,” said Flicker. “It’s absolutely classic.”
Construction will commence in mid-April, with the hope of opening by July.
The project is in its early stages, but Flicker is promising “a killer burger, and we’ll dabble in some smoked meats,” he said.
“We’re trying to avoid the word ‘barbeque,’” added Greeley. “But I can see offering some kind of meat-and-three options.”
The Sunrise's 3.2 heritage will be history. (Most mainstream beer brands have a 5 percent alcohol level, and craft beers go higher). The couple plans to upgrade the liquor license to include strong beer and wine.
The Bull's Horn has been a long time in the making.
“We’ve been looking at the space for five years,” said Flicker. “Then Sandcastle [their seasonal beachside pavilion at nearby Lake Nokomis] came up, and we couldn’t do both. With Piccolo closing, I can shift my attention to this.”
The demise of the Sunrise represents the end of an era. Low-alcohol beer joints – an anachronism that sprouted out of strict post-Prohibition municipal ordinances – thrived for decades on corners all over Minneapolis. Changes, in both tastes and governance, have been swift.
Twenty years ago, the city’s 3.2 joints numbered 56. By 2007, the figure had dwindled to 15, and in 2013 it was down to the Sunrise and the T-Shoppe Bar, located in the Camden neighborhood on the city’s north side.
The friendly neighborhood dive bar is firmly entrenched in the couple’s DNA. Greeley grew up in St. Paul, a block from what was then Mickey’s Nook. And Flicker’s aunts and uncles owned (the brilliantly named) Flicker’s Liquors in Pierz, Minn.
“It was so impactful to me, as a kid,” he said. “In every sense, I’m going back to my roots. I’m super-excited. It’s that change thing, you know? It’s so fun to think of doing something completely different.”