Matty O'Reilly is no stranger to the Hennepin-Lake bar and restaurant scene. The former neighborhood resident once managed Chino Latino and helped reform Figlio's happy hour into an Uptown institution.
"I know this corner inside and out," said the seasoned restaurateur, whose old band regularly gigged at the defunct Uptown Bar.
So as O'Reilly readies an Uptown location of Republic, his Seven Corners beer bar, for a Monday opening, it's almost a homecoming. Even the second-floor Calhoun Square space (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.) was his old haunt when it housed the Smiling Moose.
While his casual, craft-beer-focused watering hole will be a marked departure from the previous tenant, the clubbier Independent, O'Reilly is aiming for a familiar feel. "We want people to walk in and feel like it had been there for years," he said, walking through the still-coming-together dining room.
Although O'Reilly's keeping the white booths and tabletops used by his predecessors, he's added worn-looking wooden floors and exchanged its sleek bar top for a rustic pint-glass landing strip more in line with his hoodie-rocking demeanor. The mug-friendly aesthetic better suits a beer hall featuring 52 tap handles (plus a pair of firkins).
Perhaps the most noticeable change to the 6,600-square-foot space: O'Reilly had the wall separating the Independent's former smoking patio knocked out, opening up the corner facing the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue S. and creating what might become the best spot in the house.
Initially, Republic Uptown's food menu will mirror the Seven Corners location's, using grass-fed beef and ingredients that pass the locavore litmus test. But with a kitchen twice as big, O'Reilly said he expects some evolution. Where the craft-brew conductor plans to distinguish his new joint is with his beer list. The plus-sized roster will feature nine or 10 Belgians, a Twin Cities tilt, a handful of beers on nitro and four constantly rotating lines.
"I compare it to being in high school and mixing a tape for your girlfriend," O'Reilly said. "Every song matters."
If his newest mixtape has beer fiends swooning like Tiger Beat-collecting schoolgirls, he might want to rethink Republic Uptown's 1 a.m. closing time (though with a 2 a.m. license, O'Reilly said he won't exactly pull the fire alarm on a packed bar). Given the area's after-midnight bustle it's easy to picture a legion of beer-lappers lingering until last call.