Minneapolis' scruffy 400 Bar to reopen as a big Mall of America club

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER and JON BREAM | Updated 2/4/2014

The club that was a cradle for indie-rockers will be reborn as a restaurant and live-music venue, plus museum.

Here's the original 400 on West Bank.
Bruce Bisping

Once an indie-rock bastion that hosted early gigs by the White Stripes, Arcade Fire and the Jayhawks, the defunct Minneapolis rock club the 400 Bar is scheduled to reopen next summer at the Mall of America.

The mall confirmed Tuesday that the 400 Bar’s name will be used for a new restaurant and live music venue as part of the MOA’s fourth-floor entertainment complex. It could host as many as 1,000 fans for concerts — in contrast to the old, dark, funky bar on Minneapolis’ West Bank, which squeezed in fewer than 400 people before closing in November 2012 after several years of steadily declining business.

The 25,000-square-foot facility is expected to open for music in June. It also will include a new Midwest Music Museum.

“Our goal is to provide a unique music experience,” said 400 Bar business partner Joe O’Brien in a press release issued by the mall Tuesday. “Tourists and locals alike will have the opportunity of experiencing educational programs and live entertainment in a fun, family friendly environment.”

While Minnesota musicians are usually receptive to another venue that will hire them, some players are skeptical about putting a revered indie institution in the megamall.

“I see it as the equivalent of McDonald’s offering artisanal cheese,” said Minneapolis rocker Adam Levy of the Honeydogs, who played dozens of gigs at the West Bank bar. “The Mall of America, and all its consumerism, and an iconic music venue with its history of independent music seems incongruous.”

A Twitter backlash started almost immediately with the hashtag #400Bar combining the names of bands and stores. Some examples: “As Seen on TV on the Radio,” “CinnaBon Iver” and “Long John’s Silversun Pickups.”

Reached for comment, O’Brien shrugged off the initial reaction as well as doubts about whether clubgoers and hip bands that used to frequent the 400 will warm up to a venue inside the MOA.

“We wholeheartedly think people will want to come there often,” O’Brien said, pointing to the combination of daytime and nighttime business they plan to bring in between the club, museum and “pub-style” restaurant. “We’re putting in a lot of thought and effort into making sure it earns a cool reputation.”

O’Brien signed on with the 400’s co-owners, Tom and Bill Sullivan, near the end of their 17-year run on the Minneapolis West Bank. While the Sullivan brothers, who were the 400’s public face, have yet to comment on the plans — just as they kept mum when the venue closed in 2012 — O’Brien said they will not be silent partners.

“You probably won’t see them working the door every night like they used to, but they will be very involved in bringing in the bands,” O’Brien said.

The space in question — which will be divided up into the three separate entities — most recently played host to Princess Diana and “Body Works” traveling exhibits and formerly housed Players Bar. O’Brien said the museum and concert space will open in early June, with the restaurant to follow.

Tuesday’s announcement went out sooner than planned, he said, so more details such as the museum specifics are still under wraps. Word is the Grammy Museum of Los Angeles could have a hand in the exhibits there, with help from Minneapolis-reared Recording Academy chair emeritus Jimmy Jam.

The website Ticketfly is already listing one possible attraction for the space: “Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Beatles,” a traveling multimedia exhibit organized by the Grammy Museum and currently showing at the New York Public Library. The website lists dates in early June at the new Midwest Music Museum, but says more information will be announced Monday.