Tim Mahoney didn’t know he wanted to open another bar until he walked into the window-wrapped historic corner building in downtown St. Paul that until recently housed Great Waters Brewing Company.
“It was like déjà vu, walking into the Loon Cafe space 37 years ago,” said Mahoney. “I thought, What the heck? I got one more in me, I guess.”
After nearly four decades as a downtown Minneapolis institution, the Loon Cafe is now opening an eastern outpost. And it’s in a spot eerily similar to the original. Nearby Minneapolis neighbor First Avenue is even running the Palace Theater across from the new space in St. Paul.
Loon Cafe in St. Paul is expected to open in early May (426 Saint Peter St., St. Paul).
“It’s not really a brother or sister,” Mahoney said. “It’s more like a first or second cousin.”
The menu will be mostly the same, with head chef Brian Turner — who cooked at the Minneapolis Loon for 25 years — running the kitchen. General manager Laura Southwell is also a former Minneapolis Loon employee. The new space even has the same designer as the original, Smart Associates.
“It’ll feel like the Loon Cafe in Minneapolis, but with that St. Paul home feel,” Mahoney said.
The popular Loon chili will be served in St. Paul, along with the walleye, spinach dip and a few new items still in the works.
Mahoney lives in St. Paul, and views the new Loon’s neighborhood as up-and-coming. “There’s a lot of momentum over here, it’s a lot easier to do business, and there’s opportunity,” he said.
One of the reasons Great Waters Brewing Company closed was because on non-event days in the area, business lagged, according to its owner. Does that worry Mahoney?
“Downtown St. Paul has a reputation of ‘If there’s nothing going on, there’s nothing going on,’ ” he said. “But if you want to come, we’ll show you a good time. It’ll be a challenge, but I welcome it.”
Fans of the original (500 N. 1st Av., Mpls., 612-332-8342, looncafe.com) needn’t worry. The Minneapolis Loon isn’t going anywhere, he said.
“The Loon Cafe is an icon of Minneapolis. It’s going to be the mothership. We’re going to continue there as along as we can.”