'Dirty old Duluth basement' cleans up wellThe Rathskeller, located in the sub-basement of Duluth’s old city hall at 132 E. Superior St., has a pre-Prohibition theme with an air of exclusivity that nods to a time when secret societies were en vogue.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
According to German tradition, there is a name for a bar housed in the basement of a city hall, and the owners of Tycoons Alehouse and Eatery snagged that name for the lower-level spot in their recently refurbished building.
The Rathskeller, located in the sub-basement of Duluth’s old city hall at 132 E. Superior St., has a pre-Prohibition theme with an air of exclusivity that nods to a time when secret societies were en vogue. The bar, with an emphasis on its international selection of beers, opens at 4 p.m. Thursday. The unveiling is part of Tycoons’ grand-opening festivities that include live music through the weekend.
“Once in a while you want that little spot where you have to be a local in the know — someplace to have a relaxed and intimate experience,” said Brad Nelson, marketing director.
One way to achieve that: Customers will be escorted down an elevator to the lower level, which has a maximum capacity of 77 people. This isn’t a place to jostle elbows at the bar. This is a service-oriented destination, Nelson said.
“It’s for people who are here to appreciate the room’s ambiance and the bar and see the beer selections we’ve worked hard to bring in,” Nelson said.
The bar will have on tap beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse and others from around the world as picked by master brewer Dave Hoops. Part of the current crop of 18 taps includes a smoked beer from Germany, a smoked porter from Alaska and a wheat beer from Munich.
“Every beer is hand-chosen for awesomeness,” Hoops said.
A Brewhouse-born beer will cost the same at the Rathskeller as it does upstairs. Others will be priced accordingly. Most of the beer featured will not be found anywhere else in a 150-mile radius, Hoops said.
There also will be top-of-the-line liquors and cocktails and an abbreviated menu of appetizer plates and desserts.
Tycoons Alehouse and Eatery opened at the beginning of the year after eight months of construction on the 123-year-old building purchased by Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson in 2005. It was a $2.4 million project for the businessmen behind Fitger’s Brewhouse, Red Star Lounge and Burrito Union. The site is a nod to the city’s founders and the history of the building that served as city hall until 1929.
At first look, the basement space seemed likely to have been used for storage and heating, Brad Nelson said.
“It was a dirty old Duluth basement,” he said.
But beyond the dirt floor, the structure showed aesthetic promise with bluestone walls, brick archways and sandstone supports. They cleaned it up, poured a cement floor, fixed a rickety staircase and built a bar thematically similar to the one upstairs.
It is lit by a few chandeliers and metal-shaded fixtures hanging over the bar. There is an exposed ceiling and a leftover coal chute on the back wall. There are lounge-style chairs around wooden tables and tall-top tables that seat two. There are whisky barrels stacked in a corner and scattered in other parts of the room.
And it has a unique location.
“We’re below Michigan Street,” Hoops said. “How cool is that?”