Restaurant music room draws crowds

Emily Dalnodar

Behind the facade of an innocent-looking cafe lurks the markings of one very hip Dinkytown music scene.
Bon Appetit Mediterranean restaurant appears quite normal at first glance: bright, colorful decor, healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies and ample seating. Upon deeper exploration, though, another world emerges.
The back room, affectionately named The Bone, houses bands from all walks of life on any given night. But getting The Bone up and running didn’t happen accidentally.
It took two years for owner Samir Elkhoury, a native of Lebanon, to get the nod from Dinkytown Business Association members to pursue an entertainment license from the city of Minneapolis. Without the license, The Bone consisted of two pool tables, a couple of TVs and recorded music.
“We didn’t have a problem with jazz or acoustic,” said Barry Bosold, vice president of the Dinkytown Business Association.
“But the next thing you know, there’s posters for DJs. And then you get a bunch of kids from outside the neighborhood throwing trash around the streets. And then the cops get involved,” Bosold said.
Other locals disagreed with those sentiments. David Roos, employee of The Podium in Dinkytown, wrote two letters to the association on Elkhoury’s behalf.
“We need a venue for artistic talents. A university where there’s no outlet for people to play music is weird,” Roos said.
As for kids and police, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, said Minneapolis police officer Eric Dison. Everyone ordering alcohol at The Bone is carded, and so far, fights are non-existent. But the crowd isn’t always young. It varies as much as the music, and business is picking up.
According to Elkhoury, that’s because of Casey Hennessy and Jason Vold, manager and assistant manager of promotions, respectively.
The pair books bands, sets up sound systems and runs all music-related business at The Bone. They established an office, a World Wide Web site, www.beatmixes.com/bon-appetit, and a separate music phone line. Also in the works is a marketing campaign, but until then the bands advertise for themselves.
“It’s a comfortable atmosphere for all genres and lifestyles, with a different genre each night,” said Vold, who is himself a DJ and spins records with guest DJs on Tuesdays and Saturdays at The Bone.
Sunday’s “Headspin,” featuring DJs and MCs, is the most successful night, Vold said.
Other music includes reggae, acoustic guitar performance, and smooth jazz. Hennessy and Vold are constantly looking for new acts to fill upcoming dates since obtaining the entertainment license this summer.
“In the beginning it was really hard to find bands. But we’ve got Arone Dyer of Lilith Fair tonight. I mean, my god,” Hennessy said last week.
Despite drawing in big-name acts, The Bone’s local charm is not lost. Highly artistic graffiti coats the walls in back, a testament to its lively crowd. And patrons are encouraged to decorate the bathroom walls with their own tags and designs.
“That’s the beauty of this room,” said Ed Levin, local piano teacher and self-described musical guru who’s band, Universal Intelligence, plays Friday night at The Bone. “It’s an all-ages room with an all-ages atmosphere, but has a liquor license, so older people can hang out.”
The room has come a long way since its humble beginnings. When bands first started playing this summer, the stage was so tiny that drum sets were relegated to the floor near the pool tables.
Elkhoury then built a larger stage with more high-tech sound equipment. Vold hopes to soon install more impressive lights.
As for The Bone’s future, Elkhoury has no plans to expand. The structure of the building lends no room to widen the cozy Bone. But that doesn’t stop Hennessy and Vold from expanding their musical enterprise.
Once school is in full swing, they want to book bands to play during lunch hours. Also in the works is the establishment of a small cover charge for evening shows to pay the bands that have, thus far, generously played for free.
“Bon Appetit is a juice bar and Mediterranean cafe. The Bone is just keeping it real,” Vold said.