We’ve continued to share updates on Berlin, the North Loop’s new music venue, as they’ve been available over the past few months – and now that we’ve finally reached the opening, there are more details to share.
We’ve had our eyes on Berlin since initial plans for the jazz club were made public during a Minneapolis City Council committee meeting in late November. Then we had to wait until mid-January for an opening announcement, revealed when a calendar went live on Berlin’s website, with shows from Feb. 7 through March 2.
Last week, the team behind Berlin invited a handful of local reporters, including myself, to come check it out ahead of tonight’s opening. During our visit, we finally got to chat with members of the team about the venue and the inspiration behind it, as well as sample some food and drinks.
Berlin is an intimate venue, with only 85 seats. The stage itself is pretty small, too, but should be able to comfortably fit a quartet.
Music will always be playing inside Berlin, even when there’s no one on stage, thanks in part to a curated vinyl collection. The venue will start welcoming DJs later this month.
There’s an emphasis on jazz, but Berlin plans to highlight a wide variety of instrumental and experimental music, including ambient and electronic.
Music supervisor Alex Proctor books musicians, runs sound and does some lighting design at Berlin.
Proctor told Mike Binkley of the North Loop Neighborhood Association that Berlin wanted to start off as “live band-forward” and will “move into some DJ stuff” later on. “We have a DJ night at the end of the month called ‘Call It Anything,’ and that’s James Taylor and Sam Cassidy. They play all vinyl jazz records, experimental records,” he said.
All of the cocktails on Berlin's drink menu are $12, beer ranges from $6-$12, and wines by the glass are all under $20. Industry veteran Ruby Langworthy, formerly of Young Joni and Little Tijuana, manages the bar and she's keeping things pretty simple and "unfussy."
Roughly a dozen shareable plates on the current food menu by chef Jamie Malone, formerly of Grande Cafe, start at $8 for a sourdough baguette with caramelized onion and bacon butter and go up to $34 for a Vesper board, the German equivalent of a charcuterie board.
Just like the venue itself, Malone's food menu is inspired by its namesake Berlin, the beloved European city. At least one tinned fish will always be on the menu.
Malone said she was going for "gnosh-y," sharable food, and obviously had to incorporate schnitzel, a popular dish in Germany.
Rich Henriksen bought the historic building at 204 N. First St., which previously housed an Askov Finlayson store, to use the top two floors as an office for his company, Nokomis Health. He planned to rent the ground floor, which Berlin now occupies, to a retail tenant but he wasn’t able to find the right fit.
So, as a lifelong music lover and the music director for a suburban church, Henriksen had the crazy, romantic idea of doing something with the space that would allow him to pop down and play the piano.
“I have always been captivated by the spontaneity of live music and its ability to connect people around the world,” Henriksen said in a statement. “Minneapolis has a rich musical history and culture, our aim is to make a meaningful contribution to the city and its artists. We created Berlin to be a cozy space designed for genuine connection, great conversation, as a way to immerse yourself in the energy of live music. We hope people will discover new artists experimenting with sound. It’s good for the soul to listen to live music together.”
Berlin is open six nights a week (closed on Tuesdays) from 4 p.m. to midnight, or 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, when shows are ticketed. At least to start, there isn’t a cover charge or an option for reservations on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so space is available only on a first-come first-served basis.
Since the neighborhood seems hungry for a cozy cocktail bar with live music, expect Berlin to easily pack the house each night.