Schwietz Saloon reopens after lull


Ed Bertges opened Schwietz Saloon after years of the classic East Side bar being closed. After re-exposing the original copper ceiling and adding a kitchen and 20 taps, Bertges opened the place up in late June. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

On the bar at Schwietz Saloon sit a number of nameplates marking the seats where regulars used to sit. Bertges kept the placards, and even one of the customers -- A woman by the name of Arlene showed up after the bar was re-opened and took up her old seat. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

After nearly two years of preparation, Ed Bertges has finally pulled off the re-opening of the long-standing Schwietz Saloon on Payne Avenue -- and he’s added a kitchen. The classic East Side establishment, located near the intersection of Payne and Case avenues is now called Schwietz Saloon and Eatery.

Though it took two years, it may have been worth the wait -- step into the old bar and you’ll notice it’s a lot different than its last incarnation.

Perhaps most notably, the place has about three extra feet of headroom, revealing an ornate copper ceiling -- Bertges hauled out 15 trailer loads of cigarette-smoke-stained dropped ceiling tiles to unveil the original ceiling.

The same behemoth oak bar is there, with old name placards still screwed to the 40-foot, dark-stained rail top. The bar is decked out with 20 beer taps, and a new stainless steel kitchen sits where the dartboards used to be.

It’s different, but it maintains much of its past character. Enough so that past regulars have already started coming back to the place.

In fact, Bertges said one longtime regular who had her name on a little metal placard attached to the bar came in for a visit. Her name is Arlene.

“She almost cried,” Bertges said.

Jamie Slater, a bartender, said she’s had a number of former patrons remark on the place’s re-opening.

Slater herself grew up just three blocks from Scwheitz Saloon, and recalls walking past it with her grandmother.

By coincidence, there was a death in the Schwietz family the first weekend Bertges opened the place, and they stopped by to check out their old family haunt.

“They came in, they cried, they drank, they took pictures,” Bertges said.

Bertges bought the building back in October 2012 and had anticipated being open in the summer of 2013. But lining up permits and going through all the processes with the city took longer than he’d anticipated -- he ran into barriers with his parking situation, and had to pursue a new liquor license, and undergo several rounds of building inspections.

“I definitely thought that the process was going to be a lot quicker,” he said.

He had to shore up the patio portion of the property, which was a separate parcel. Because he didn’t own the land underneath the patio, it didn’t count as an emergency fire exit.

Because the bar was closed for over a year, its liquor license lapsed, and since the building wasn’t usable as a commercial space, Bertges wasn’t able to line up financing for the renovations.

So, he worked on it paycheck to paycheck, trying to get the building shipshape to pass inspections. In the end, there were nine final inspections he said, and the inspections process was a “very ‘no no no’ process.”

Nonetheless, he persevered and the eventual re-opening made the long process worthwhile.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Bertges said.

It probably helps that he bought the bar at a bargain price  -- the original list price for the building was $600,000, Bertges said. After the business lost the liquor license because it was closed, the building was listed at $275,000. From there, it kept going down, due possibly to the complications associated with getting new liquor licensing, and meeting up-to-date city codes.

While the building was vacant, some thieves broke in and stole all the copper out of the building, which brought the price all the way down to $50,000, which Bertges paid cash for.

Bertges began hiring staff and had food shipments beginning to roll in in time for a June 21 soft opening.

Schwietz Saloon is just one of a number of new businesses popping up along Payne Avenue this year -- add it to the list, along with Cook St. Paul, Tongue in Cheek, Autra Cocina, and the restaurants at Plaza Del Sol.

Leslie McMurray, director of the Payne Phalen Community Council, said the council members have been supportive of Bertges as he navigated city processes.

“It seems to fit along well with the new development we’re seeing along Payne Avenue,” she said.

McMurray noted the bar’s history -- “it’s been a popular spot on Payne Avenue for many years.”

She lauded his outreach to nearby neighbors as he worked towards opening, saying he was thorough in talking with nearby residents and businesses beforehand.

“It’s been a long-standing location for a bar,” McMurray said. “We don’t anticipate problems.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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