Nicollet Diner, the only 24-hour dining venue in Minneapolis, is moving two blocks north.
Owners and spouses Sam and Dion Turner are taking over the kitschy structure at Grant Street and Nicollet Mall that was the longtime home of Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar.
"This building is the opportunity of a lifetime," said Sam Turner. "We have a deep attachment to the neighborhood, and everything has aligned in a way that makes perfect sense."
The diner will continue to operate on a 24-hour basis, serving its menu of burgers, sandwiches, breakfast-all-day items, malts and cocktails. At 77 seats — some of them lining a U-shaped counter — it will be slightly smaller than the current 99-seat operation. It will occupy the northern portion of the Ichiban building's first floor.
The remaining street-level space will be occupied by Roxy's Cabaret, a 100-seat entertainment venue.
"The more I looked at the Ichiban space, the more that I saw that it's perfect for this kind of concept," said Sam Turner. "The space has to tell you what it's supposed to be, and this building is big enough to be a couple of different concepts."
Jamie Olsen, director of marketing and entertainment, described the cabaret by comparing it to Hamburger Mary's, the flamboyant chain that offers drag shows, drag brunches and other divertissements.
"We're not limiting ourselves to the types of entertainment we feature," said Olsen, who ran the cabaret at the Gay 90's in downtown Minneapolis for many years. "But we'll have lots of drag and celebrity impersonation shows, featuring locals and people from around the country. Just a good, old-fashioned cabaret with the kind of top-tier level of entertainment missing in the Minneapolis drag scene right now."
Roxy's Cabaret is named for Roxy Marquis, the popular drag performer personified by the late Wes Byers, who died last year after a battle with cancer.
"We want to pay homage to her career," said Olsen. "And we want to honor the indelible mark she left on the drag community here in Minneapolis and in the Midwest."
The Turners have plans for the current Nicollet Diner, which opened in 2014. The neighborhood has changed considerably during the past two years, with more than 500 apartment units materializing on the surrounding blocks, creating a built-in customer base for their popular business.
Their adjacent coffeehouse, Muffin Top Cafe, will expand into a portion of the diner's current footprint, and the remaining square footage will be remade into Mother Clucker's Pizza, which will focus on pizza, broasted chicken and sub sandwiches.
Ichiban, which was part of a five-unit chain that originated in Winnipeg, called it quits in 2016 after a 36-year run.
The building has remained empty for the past five years. Its exterior will be losing its EPCOT-esque Japanese touches and will gain two rooftop patios, one on the first-floor roof, the other capping a smaller second story. That second-floor space will be remade into a bar and lounge.
A summer opening is planned. Construction, which is estimated to take 16 weeks, is scheduled to begin soon. Interior demolition has been completed.
"The Ichiban people took out all the food and left everything else," said Sam Turner. "All the furniture, all the hibachi grills, they were all still there. I want to say that there were 27 dumpsters full of stuff."