Since then, more details have emerged. The plan is to restart the sprawling facility (520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls.) in stages.
"It takes a long time to ramp up such a large space," said Dan DiNovis, Surly's vice president of hospitality. "We'll be turning the dial slowly."
The doors will open with beer service, with the brewery's gigantic beer garden playing host to food trucks. Dining operations for the 350-seat beer hall will follow. After that, the second-floor pizzeria's wood-burning ovens will be reignited. The final reboot of the $30 million complex — which opened in 2015 — will be the resumption of private events.
There's no formal timetable; much of Ansari's decisionmaking is predicated on state-mandated COVID-19 limitations.
"The sooner we get information, the sooner we'll know," he said. "We're going to need more capacity for this to really work."
Other changes are in the pipeline. Following the lead of many Twin Cities restaurants, Surly is dropping tips in favor of a flat 18% service fee.
"That will allow us to provide full medical, dental, vision, 401(k) and paid-time-off benefits, and pay higher wages to the front and back of the house," said Ansari.
Before November, Surly's various platforms — beer hall, pizzeria, event center, a retail store — operated relatively independently of one another. No longer. Hospitality employees will be trained to work across all of the venues.
"That will provide folks with more opportunities to get more hours," said Ansari.
Last fall, a group of hospitality employees tried to unionize, but the effort failed. Former hospitality employees will not be formally recalled.
"We're encouraging them to apply," said DiNovis. "But the positions themselves are radically different. Basically, we're starting over."
One new hire has been announced: general manager Aaron Johnson, formerly of the Strip Club and the Town Talk Diner. Chef Ben Peine will not be returning, and the hunt for a new chef is on.
"Those are some big shoes to fill," said DiNovis. "We have some strong leads with local candidates and candidates outside the market. It's a challenging role for someone to walk into, because we want someone who is willing to adopt some of the food we had in the past."
Yes, that means that the hog frites and other popular Surly menu staples will return.
"I went to the doctor's office yesterday, and the first thing I was asked was, 'You're bringing the trout back, right?' " said Ansari. "So yeah, I guess we are. I thought people would welcome change. But if we've learned one thing during the pandemic, it's that people like comfort food."
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib