The Exchange and Alibi at the Exchange open tomorrow. Leading the charge on this club and lounge project is the enegmatic Ben Quam, who’s a convivial Minneapolis nightlife Renaissance man. Located in the Lumber Arts Exchange in downtown Minneapolis, The Exchange will function as a grown-up nightclub and the Lounge is a place of cool refuge with menu items like pork belly sliders, truffle fries and oysters.
The group behind The Pourhouse nightclub is building its third concept in the Lumber Exchange building in downtown Minneapolis.
The new venture is a dual concept that will occupy the basement level of the building at the corner of Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue, one floor below The Pourhouse, said Deepak Nath, a partner in Empire Entertainment LLC. Empire is a large stakeholder in the new business.
CLARE KENNEDY | MSPBJ
Two-thirds of the 10,000-square-foot space will be a nightclub called the Exchange, which is inspired by both the Underground, a Chicago nightspot, and the Rogue, a club that occupied the bowels of the Lumber Exchange in the 1990s.
A third of the space will be devoted to another establishment called the Alibi Lounge. The Alibi is envisioned as a cross between two Minneapolis establishments, The Oceanaire restaurant and the Parlour Bar. Nath said Alibi will have a raw bar component and an emphasis on martinis and craft cocktails.
The lounge will be open five to seven nights a week. The Exchange will be more oriented to weekend nightlife, opening just three or four days a week.
Nath said the Exchange and Alibi are aimed at a slightly older demographic than The Pourhouse, which caters to revelers aged 21 to 41. The Exchange/Alibi’s target base is 25 through 55.
The project has attracted a large number of high-profile investors, Nath said, including Renters Warehouse founder Brenton Hayden and Ken Sherman, founder of the Sherman Group (which owns the Lumber Exchange).
Jacob Toledo and Brent Frederick, the owners of the Minneapolis restaurants Coup d’Etat and Borough/Parlour, are also a part of Empire, though their best-known restaurants are part of a separate company, Jester Concepts.
Construction on the site began this past winter. The Sherman Group is spearheading the build-out. Nath said the new club and lounge will be open in June.
Clare Kennedy, Staff reporter Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
No, not that kind of “adult,” you dirty birds. Adult as in, the grown and sexy crowd, as in 30+, as in not 21.
Grown and sexy? You decide. The Exchange opens this Saturday.
That’s what co-owner Jacob Toledo (also of Jester, which is responsible for Borough, Coup d’Etat, and Monello/ Constantine) told me a few weeks back when I toured the space, in the underground level of Minneapolis’ grand old 1885 Lumber Exchange building, which back in the ’90s used to house the Rogue, which was in fact a grown and sexy nightclub, perhaps the last this town has seen.
At the time of my tour, the place was filled with jackhammer-wielding construction workers, a lot of exposed granite and brick, and plenty of dust, and it was difficult to imagine it as a glittering multimillion-dollar space specializing in a swank night out for grownups. But that day has come, and here are a few things the group is promising:
Dancers (again, not that kind of dancer!) but classically trained dancers, if their “casting call” is to be believed. And, shot girls
Custom, state-of-the-art light and sound design, the serious high-end sound system purportedly being the first in North America
A serious, chef-driven food program will focus on seafood at the quieter sister lounge, Alibi
Lots of little nooks and crannies for chatting, sipping, and whatever else you’ve got on your mind
A business model and space that doesn’t cater only to men, but also to the ladies — by way of illustration Toledo mentioned a restroom with a designated “primping area”
Jeroboam-wielding hotties, if the promo pics are to be believed
A jellyfish tank (‘cuz why not?)
So the big question is, do adults go to nightclubs? Toledo says he wants to strike a balance between oontz-oontz and tequila popper land, and a place that’s so quiet that it’s fusty. He and his partners have described their target market as the young professional. But ostensibly, a professional needs to be up in the morning if one is to be doing pro things, making happy hour the perfect hour for cutting loose, allowing for that all-important 10:30 bedtime.
Of course, the weekend is prime clubbin’ time, so who knows?
Still, after 30, lots of us have outgrown the urge to shake our booties (those booties having become somewhat less ready for prime time), to stand in line for anything unless we’re at the bank, to pay a premium to see or be seen, or to strap on heels unless a wedding or a funeral is involved.
Prediction: This place will be filled with a lot of professional men (not young) and younger ladies (under 30) in search of making their acquaintance. (If the promo pictures are to be believed).
But potentially, the 30+ among us might check out the quieter Alibi in our sensible flats, scarfing oysters and champagne, no longer overly concerned about fitting into our booty shorts.
The Minneapolis nightlife scene is about to get a new name: The Exchange Nightclub and Alibi Lounge officially opened their doors Aug. 1 to those looking for an evening out.
Located on the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Fifth Street in Downtown Minneapolis, the dual nightclub and upscale bar boast a sophisticated experience that caters to visitors looking for a more seasoned night on the town—at least that’s the hope of the club’s owners.
With the nightclub and bar underneath the Lumber Exchange Building, the new club celebrates a mixture of its location’s historic past with the technology of the present. The venue highlights the buildings original limestone walls, marble floors and former bathtubs that were discovered during renovations.
“As we built out our venue upon the foundation of the Lumber Exchange Building we uncovered the original marble floors and sunken pool areas from the building’s past to which we have added modern technology and design to create an incredible experience for our guests,” said owner Deepak Nath.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE EXCHANGE NIGHTCLUB AND ALIBI LOUNGE
As for the present, The Exchange Nightclub will feature a selection of unique drinks and classic cocktails along with a custom sound and lighting system, a jellyfish tank and Funktion-one EVO speakers for DJs to spin on—the first to be installed in North America after their success in London and Paris. Along with the historic renovations, the nightclub promises an “exceptional” ladies room with full-length mirrors and complementary products.
But the special treat that comes with The Exchange Nightclub is their smaller bar-within-a-bar, Alibi Lounge. The trendy cocktail lounge is the mixing grounds for head bartender Thomas Iniguez with a menu of classic drinks made with organic and GMO-free cold pressed juices and local spirits. The “Mole Manhattan” with cayenne pepper, shaved milk chocolate, cinnamon and a luxardo cherry, putting a Mexican twist on the classic Manhattan, and the “A Lovely Exchange” with cold press strawberry, peach and lemon juice are two signature drinks featured on the menu.
The bar will also offer a dinner menu of small plates with a heavy seafood focus, with oysters and stone crab claws as some of the fare.
The truly curious part of this new lounge is where Alibi gets its name. The idea was based off a crime story in 1935, where the notorious Minneapolis gangster Kid Cann was accused of killing The Minneapolis Star newspaper editor Walter Liggett. To avoid murder charges, Cann used a barbershop in the Lumber Exchange Building’s basement as an alibi when questioned by the police, inspiring this new bar’s name Alibi.
Promising sexy and sophisticated, both locations will be open throughout the week with The Exchange open Thursday through Saturday and Alibi open Tuesday through Saturday. To reserve a table or find out more visit The Exchange website.
BY KELCIE MCKENNEY, Minnesota Monthly
As the party inside crested at midnight, a trio of men in T-shirts arrived at the front door of downtown Minneapolis’ latest club opening. To their dismay, their admission was declined by the doormen. Justin Rothman, sweaty in his suit, stood guard as the club’s sentinel of security.
“Collared shirts, guys,” he said with a huff.
The three men, who were actually well-kept even in tees, wouldn’t get to see the inside of the Exchange Nightclub this night — but a lot of other people did. The club opened to a full house last Saturday in the lower level of the historic Lumber Exchange building. The club, on the busy corner of 5th and Hennepin, has upscale ambitions that seem to fly in the face of a scene dominated by casual-first party bars like Cowboy Jack’s and Sneaky Pete’s.
More surprising is the location: a windowless, subterranean space that has housed a revolving door of nightclubs over the years, most recently Club New York.
One year in the making, the Exchange’s interior has been stripped back to its skeletal frame, revealing original marble floors and chunky limestone walls that hark back to its Mill City roots.
An ideal setting, the owners think, for a club aimed at a more affluent, better-dressed and more-seasoned clubber. (Read: older.) Except for a few exceptions, dance clubs in the Twin Cities have typically been playgrounds for the twenty-something set.
AARON LAVINSKY, STAR TRIBUNE
Security guard Jerry Bryant watched over the Exchange Nightclub as a group of patrons had their photo taken.
As the area’s glut of high-priced condos and apartments continues to grow, the timing seems right for a glitzy hot spot like the Exchange.
Downtown nightlife seems to be growing up here in other ways, too. Inside the Exchange’s retro-meets-modern walls, bartenders serve a menu of non-GMO, organic and cold-pressed juices that are mixed into drinks like the brandy-based, $14 Lovely Exchange.
What’s smoother than a healthy hangover?
“Rather than pre-Prohibition-style cocktails or crazy molecular gastronomy, we wanted to try a simpler cocktail anthology,” said general manager Ben Quam. A veteran in the business, he added that bars didn’t always “have access to fresh-squeezed mango.”
A large portion of the club is covered by a bottle service area, where VIPs were spending hundreds of dollars at their booths on opening night and then hitting the nearby dance floor that features a state-of-the-art sound system.
Depending on your speed, the basement-level space is also home to a separate room with its own name — the relaxed Alibi Lounge. The dual experience is analogous to wading between a “pool” and “hot tub,” Quam said. Revelers can take a dip in the Alibi, where communal seating areas and smoldering candles project a mellow mood, or splash around in the larger and louder Exchange.
Alibi’s culinary vision (more on that later) is aided by the résumé of co-partner Jacob Toledo, who also co-owns Borough, Monello and Coup d’État. The club’s other partner is nightclub veteran Deepak Nath, whose assets include the Pourhouse, located just upstairs on the first floor of the Lumber Exchange.
The owners say the concept’s layout and vibe was inspired by the swanky Underground nightclub in Chicago and the now-closed cocktail emporium Milk & Honey in New York.
The Exchange’s name is obvious. But what’s up with Alibi’s? The name was inspired by notorious gangster Kid Cann, who used the building’s barbershop as an alibi when he was charged with the 1935 murder of Minneapolis newspaper editor Walter Liggett.
All but confetti
On Saturday night, guests in Alibi were greeted by bartenders whose energy outpaced theirs at times. One bartender fist-pumped while serving beverages. Another, who wore a handlebar mustache and ear gauges, exclaimed “Where’s the energy?”
A seafood menu served between 4 and 10 p.m. includes oysters and stone crab claws as well as pork belly sliders and stuffed mushrooms, with prices ranging from $8 for small plates to $72 for a massive seafood platter.
Not for eating: a glowing tank of tiny jellyfish, which added a tinge of weird to the lounge and a talking point among customers.
The more adrenaline-seeking crowd filled every inch of the Exchange, where go-go dancers in wigs like cotton candy swayed in flashy lingerie. The room pulsed with remixes to anything from Awolnation’s rip-roaring “Sail” to Kelis’ busty “Milkshake.”
In one of the club’s 17 reserved areas, a group of friends was toasting the 24th birthday of Mik Kaminski — their comfort attended to by a server in a strappy black dress.
“It’s nice to be at a classy, upscale place,” said his sister, Kylie Kaminski, 22, sitting among high school friends who have since graduated from separate colleges. Kaminski couldn’t be reached for an interview, because he was tearing up the dance floor.
AARON LAVINSKY, STAR TRIBUNE
Jeff Fillbrandt danced with go-go dancers on a Saturday night at the new Exchange Nightclub in the Lumber Exchange building in downtown Minneapolis.
In a more shadowy corner of the club, a woman celebrated her 44th birthday with her friend. The duo usually opts for a quieter bar, but she wanted to come dancing in the former home of the Rogue, where she worked in the ’90s. (After the Rogue’s run, the space was also home to Level, Foundation and Element in the 2000s.) “This is not necessarily my scene, but I enjoy watching,” she said.
Not far away, an ongoing photo shoot was being staged by the nightclub’s back wall. The faux-greenery backdrop was adorned with ornate frames and a gilded sign for “The Exchange: Minneapolis.” Willing subjects were captured by a blast of fluorescence on their own red carpet all night long. Striking a pose were lines of hip-clutching women, lip-locking couples and beverage-toting dudes. Evoking the instancy of Polaroid and photo booths, revelers could pocket a printout — or scroll through the album that would grace Facebook by morning.
A bubbly affair
Across the club and beside the grooving bodies on the dance floor, a couple necked like teenagers.
“We have my mom babysitting the kids tonight,” said Tony Peltier, 39, who was with his wife, Kristi, 39, after dinner at Black Sheep Pizza. “Before I got married and had kids, I was a big part of the club scene.”
The party wasn’t as much Kristi’s taste, though Tony was thankful for the “elevated dress code” and absence of “riffraff,” he said.
Much of the clientele on Saturday fit the club’s coveted mid-30s demographic. A group of people in the lounge repeatedly professed how the Exchange was filling a void in the late-night scene. “I want a place to party but where I’m not feeling out of place,” said one woman, 33, who works as a creative at Target, and didn’t want to give her name. “The Pourhouse isn’t where I belong anymore. This speaks to me and where I’m at in my life.”
Her friends poured from a glow-in-the-dark, 2-foot-high bottle of Champagne priced at $3,000. A server had just returned to the booth with more glass flutes, as requested
By NATALIE DAHER, Star Tribune