When Dave and Phuong O'Neil planned their Twin Cities wedding 10 years ago, they couldn't find a venue with a catering partner specializing in Vietnamese food.
Phuong, who is Vietnamese American, wanted to celebrate her culture and provide her side of the family with traditional dishes and share those foods with her husband's family, who are of Irish descent. This left them with two options: hosting their wedding at an Asian restaurant that lacked their desired aesthetics or at an event venue that had the right vibe but served only American cuisine.
To compromise, Dave and Phuong had two wedding celebrations — on the same day.
"You kind of miss a part of yourself when you can't serve the food that really represents you," Phuong O'Neil said.
The frustrating experience put the newlyweds on a mission to support other couples planning multicultural weddings in the Twin Cities. The O'Neils, with business partner Chanti Miller, in January will open Mosaic, a 9,500 square-foot event venue located on the third floor above Finnegans Brew Co. in downtown Minneapolis.
Mosaic can accommodate up to 500 guests for wedding ceremonies, receptions, galas, and corporate and nonprofit events. It includes separate dressing-room suites for wedding parties. For corporate or nonprofit events, the suites can serve as greenrooms for entertainers and speakers. The venue can also accommodate stages for live music.
Construction will be complete in a few weeks, with the first event booked for Jan. 14.
Mosaic's founders believe the market needs a top-tier venue that offers customers more flexibility and control.
"We'll compete with some of the top spaces around town," Dave O'Neil said. "Our space has the same amenities as all the top spaces. When you get to those [venues], what you'll find is there is a very defined view of what an event looks like, and you can't really get out of that box."
Mosaic also features a bar and 650-square-foot soundproof prep kitchen. The floor's terrace can fit just under 50 people. The four-floor Finnegans House building, which includes co-working and office space on the top floor, has underground parking and is attached to the Elliot Park Hotel.
Before the pandemic, the O'Neils developed a plan to create an open-catering, open-vendor venue in the Twin Cities. In March 2020, however, those plans were put on hold. In December 2021 they revived the plan, assuming there was pent-up demand in the market, and brought in Miller, a former real estate colleague of Dave's.
"Weddings and events were put on hold for two years," Phuong O'Neil said. "But that doesn't mean people stopped falling in love."
Initially, about 60% of Mosaic's events will be weddings, with the remainder being corporate or nonprofit private events, Miller said. Many companies shed leases or sold properties to lower costs amid the shift to working from home, but they still need facilities to host in-person gatherings, she said.
The firm has already booked 10 events for 2023 and anticipates booking 20 more before year's end, Dave O'Neil said. They expect more reservations once construction is complete.
Miller, Mosaic's chief operating officer, and Dave O'Neil, chief executive, will use their experience in scaling real estate operations to expand the business model. The trio plans to open more event venues in the Twin Cities and across the U.S., mostly in midsize markets with diverse populations.
In addition to providing open catering options for multicultural and nontraditional weddings and events, the founders of Mosaic see it as an opportunity for diverse food entrepreneurs and vendors that don't often service large venues downtown.
Ten percent of profits this year will go toward a fund that will allow entrepreneurs to book the venue at discounted rates, Dave O'Neil said.
Mosaic will be comparable in price to other premier venues downtown — a decision for which the founders say they received pushback.
"Why do you automatically think diverse communities can't afford?" Phuong O'Neil said. "They want a space like this and can afford a space like this. We just want to build it for them."