Local Current Blog

Icehouse restaurant and venue set to open in late May on Nicollet Ave

Eat Street in Minneapolis is getting a new music venue: Icehouse, which will also operate as a full-scale restaurant with a kitchen overseen by Be’wiched owner Matthew Bickford, is slated to open its doors at the end of May.

Bickford co-owns the Nicollet Avenue space, which sits between 25th and 26th St., with Brian Liebeck, and they are bringing Dave Wiegardt (who formerly managed the Turf Club) on board to help with planning and booking music for the space. Already, Wiegardt has invited drummer JT Bates to reinvigorate his Clown Lounge Monday night jazz residency at Icehouse, giving Bates and his constellation of musical collaborators a homebase for the first time since the Turf Club terminated their residency in early 2011.

“They believe in what I’m trying to do,” enthuses Bates, who helped to shape Monday nights in the Turf Club’s basement lounge and worked with Wiegardt to make it a successful 13-year-long residency. “I’ve missed the music from those nights, but even more I’ve missed the community,” he says. For anyone who had ever set foot in the Clown Lounge on a Monday night, that sense of community was immediately palpable — something Bates credits to the fact that presenting jazz in a rock club setting shattered people’s expectations and welcomed a whole new pool of fans into their improvisational world.

For many of those nights, Bates would perform with his Fat Kid Wednesdays cohorts Michael Lewis on saxophone and Adam Linz on bass, but more often than not their Monday night concerts would include special guests. Bates says he expects that same format for this new series, especially given the fact that both he and Lewis will be leaving town periodically to tour — in addition to a multitude of other projects, Bates currently drums with The Pines and Lewis plays with Andrew Bird and Bon Iver.

In addition to Monday night jazz, Icehouse have revealed a few more details about their musical plans: “Tuesday late night will be Christy Hunt spinning ’60’s and ’70’s soul late night,” says Liebeck, referring to the omnipresent booker and co-frontwoman of Pink Mink. “Thursday night we plan to open the space up a bit into what is perceived as a normal true live music venue. It will be a showcase evening featuring a wide variety of bands from week to week. Friday and Saturday nights will feature kitschy lounge music with an interesting twist during the dinner hours from 8-12. These will be the nights to really get the full experience of the combined atmosphere (music, food and drink). And during Sunday brunches we plan to alternate between gospel, folk and big band jazz and pair it with more of a southern-influenced menu.”

Wiegardt stresses that their goal is to present the space as “a restaurant with a stage — our intentions are to avoid compromising the presentation of one for the other,” while Bates notes that the intimate layout of the bar and stage area will give fans a chance to get up close and personal with their musical acts.

For those who haven’t been to the 2500 block of Nicollet in a while, the remodeling of the new Icehouse space is happening in tandem with a redesign of a large portion of that city block. A Vertical Endeavors was just built near the Icehouse space, as well as an open courtyard that developers are dubbing “Icehouse Court.” That space will be christened on May 18 with a show by the New Standards, just a few weeks prior to the opening of the Icehouse restaurant and venue.

Icehouse’s owners are still in the process of renovating their space, building a stage and balcony, and constructing a bar, so there is little in the way of visuals to offer to our readers quite yet. We do plan on taking a walk-through of the venue once it is closer to opening, so keep an eye on this blog for photos and more detailed information about the space next month.