After a few moments of small talk Tim Niver, a king of hospitality in the Twin Cities dining room draws a long breath before uttering the phrase he’s likely said more times than he would like to today, “We’re closing the Strip Club.”
Chef J.D. Fratzke and Tim Niver first opened in 2008 in a much different dining climate on an often-mispronounced name in a transitioning neighborhood. Fratzke was best known for his passionate commitment to local cuisine and the beautiful, comforting food he’d served at Muffuletta. Niver had made his name as a front-of-house man with stints at the storied Aquavit and opening the lauded Town Talk Diner. The duo came together with a crew that became more family than employees (both of their wives have worked as servers) to put together what Niver once referred to as a dinner party thrown by your most fun friends.
“It was a lease situation,” he went on to explain. “Considering all of the things and looking five years down the road, looking at things that are happening right now, it’s just too hard to know what will five more years would bring. It’s a hard decision, but the right one for us.”
Employees were notified on Monday that the last day of service will be July 1.
Since opening, the restaurant has racked up accolades. It’s been consistently named a best restaurant of St. Paul and made the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood a destination for people who love great food, cocktails and service.
In the years since opening, the partnership also opened (and closed) The Inn in downtown Minneapolis before returning to Saint Paul for other projects. They opened Saint Dinette with chef Adam Eaton and GM Laurel Elm which has become a critical darling in Lowertown. Meanwhile Niver’s pasta and pizza-centric Mucci’s with former Strip Club chef de cuisine Chris Uhrich which continues to sport long lines on busy nights in the West 7th neighborhood. Fratzke has also branched out with other partnerships and businesses including a deliciously fun summer business with Republic called Red River Kitchen at City House.
The success of these two is in no small part due to their deep commitment to their customers and crew. “How many restaurants do you really trust?” he asked. “There’s a no bullshit attitude, but it's been a welcoming, very American tavern that I think trusted. That is I would like us to be remembered most for. There's some integrity and soul behind it.”
As the restaurant winds down, hours will be cut back. Beginning Tuesday of next week, the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Final brunch service will happen February 12. Through it all, general manager Adam Johnson and Fratzke’s kitchen team will remain intact until the closing day.
“Restaurant industry is a cycle. We're aware of it and we are a part of it.” Announcing the closure this early, they hope that friends will be able to take the time to send off the restaurant with the fanfare and fun it deserves. The menu will continue to change with the seasons and as Fratzke’s inspiration moves. There will be more saucily penned menus with their lusty double entendre, buckets of Lil’ Danny’s Iconic Tonic and if we’re lucky, some gentle ribbing from the curly-haired ring master himself.
With any luck, “The idea of the Strip Club can endure, even if the restaurant does not.”