Out with the old and in with the brew

Seven Corners replaces Preston’s Urban Pub with the Republic.

Amanda Bankston

After PrestonâÄôs Urban Pub closed its doors at the end of April, Heather Christian was forced to find a new favorite watering hole in her Seven Corners neighborhood. The 24-year-old didnâÄôt have to look far to find Republic, the bar and restaurant that opened in place of PrestonâÄôs on May 17.

âÄúThis is going to bring very, very good things to Seven Corners,âÄù she said as she sipped from a tall glass of craft beer at the restaurantâÄôs grand opening. âÄúThis is the type of place this corner has been begging for.âÄù

Despite her three and a half years as a regular at PrestonâÄôs, Christian joins a number of people who claim it fell short catering to the maturing tastes of the Seven Corners community, including the new ownership of Republic.

âÄúThe 21-year-old today is not the same as a 21-year-old 20 years ago,âÄù Republic co-owner Rick Guntzel said. âÄúStudents are smart. TheyâÄôre not looking for potato skins and a pitcher of cheap beer anymore.âÄù

Republic began with a simple concept and a pair of high school best friends.

Guntzel, a restaurant industry veteran, teamed up with his high school buddy Matty OâÄôReilly, the creative mind behind The Aster Café in St. Anthony Main and 318 Café in Excelsior, Minn.

The pair wanted to create a space to serve quality, contemporary food and a craft beer in a comfortable pub atmosphere, Guntzel said.

He said the pair began their hunt for the perfect location in October, and after looking at about 60 possible venues, they immediately knew they had found a home in Seven Corners âÄî the space occupied by PrestonâÄôs Urban Pub was for sale.

âÄúIâÄôve always liked Seven Corners,âÄù OâÄôReilly said. âÄúItâÄôs always had this history of being a cool spot with a vibrancy thatâÄôs hard to find anywhere else.âÄù

The business partners began a two-week restoration process immediately after they took ownership May 1.

They stripped away 45 neon signs, 10 flat screen televisions and a variety of beer signs that had previously adorned the walls and windows, replacing them with custom artwork made of old beer signs to fit the concept of the pub.

The new owners said their goal was to showcase the history and beauty of the old corner bar.

âÄúSeveral people have come in and asked if we put in the stained glass windows,âÄù Guntzel said. âÄúTheyâÄôve been here for decades; we just found a way to make them make sense.âÄù

OâÄôReilly used the same logic for the creation of the menu, which features traditional pub fare like burgers and fries made from local, farm-fresh ingredients.

But OâÄôReilly and Guntzel did fear that axing the neon signs and âÄúfishbowlsâÄù âÄî giant plastic containers filled with alcohol âÄîhas caused Republic to be painted as a high-class, and therefore expensive, establishment.

Ninety percent of the menu is under 10 dollars, and beer prices make it so patrons can purchase craft beer for close to the traditional cost of domestic beers like Bud Light and Miller Light, OâÄôReilly said.

Despite the new ownersâÄô optimism that their concept will better appeal to former PrestonâÄôs clientele, Christian said the contemporary feel may alienate younger bar-goers.

âÄúUndergrads may not appreciate this place as much,âÄù Christian said. âÄúBut this is some place that graduate students and young professionals will love to come and hang out in.âÄù

Anna Pratt, a freelance journalist, said attracting those with more mature tastes may actually benefit Republic and its new customers.

âÄúWhen IâÄôm sitting in this bar right now, I feel comfortable that a party bus is not going to ride up and ruin the atmosphere,âÄù she said. âÄúNow, this is a grown-up bar âÄî not a transition bar.âÄù

Guntzel said he hopes this comfort continues to bring business to all of the Seven Corners bars and restaurants. He said his new neighbors, including the craft brewery across the street, Town Hall Brewery, have welcomed him to the community with open arms.

âÄúWeâÄôre not here to compete with our neighbors; weâÄôre here to build a community in Seven Corners,âÄù he said. âÄúThe more we have to offer here, the better for everybody.âÄù