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St. Paul's Legendary Commodore Bar to Reopen

Just as two high-profile restaurants in Minneapolis are saying adieu—La Belle Vie and Vincent—a St. Paul institution, long removed from the public eye but operating as a banquet facility, is about to say bon jour! The Commodore Bar, an Art Deco legend once haunted by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis—who also stayed in The Commodore’s apartment hotel—reopens to the public on October 27.
“We recently purchased a piece of property adjacent to the Commodore that we can use for a banquet room,” says owner John Rupp. “So it was time to reopen the bar, as we need both of those income streams to make the properties work financially.”
Rupp is also the founder and chief executive officer of the Commodore’s parent company, St. Paul-based Commonwealth Properties Inc. He’s also developed and owns other local St. Paul landmarks in the area, including W.A. Frost, The University Club, the St. Paul Athletic Club, and opening in 2016 Watson’s Manor, a boutique hotel.
“Restoration of a 1920s Art Deco bar? We felt the market would be receptive to that kind of place for a variety of reasons,” Rupp says.
For one thing, there’s the space itself. Meticulously restored, the Commodore Bar exudes luxury, glamour and glitz. “It’s an iconic interior in a building with great social and cultural history, in a historic neighborhood where the founders of many MSP institutions built their homes,” Rupp says. “It’s a real place.”
Because the Commodore historically was a cocktail lounge, “we created a craft-cocktail menu using product from local distilleries” in MSP, Rupp says. “We have deep experience in our talented bartenders at Frost and the University Club, who have contributed to our cocktail list.” Adds Bob Crew, Commonwealth’s director of food and beverage operations, “We want to be the Twin Cities showcase for the best in locally and regionally distilled spirits.” The food will be “creatively re-imagined” American cuisine, Rupp says.
As for entering an ever-shifting restaurant market, Rupp is confident. “Our experience says if we’re in a place that’s very special, we won’t have any problem getting people from a broad geographic area. Just as Frost is much more than a neighborhood bar, drawing people from throughout the metro area, so will people want to experience the Commodore Bar once again—or for the first time!”
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