A year and a half after its tearful goodbye, Nye’s Polonaise Room, an institution in Minneapolis for 66 years, is making a comeback — on part of its original footprint.
And brothers Rob and Tony Jacob, who shuttered the Northeast restaurant and bar in April 2016, are still the ones behind the classic name.
Nye’s Piano Bar expects to debut in late December with a totally refreshed concept and space in a small chunk of the historic building at 112 E. Hennepin Av.
“It’s going to be Nye’s 2.0,” said Rob Jacob. “It will be reminiscent of the old, but it will concentrate on the new era.”
After Nye’s closed, the Jacob brothers partnered with local development company Schafer Richardson to transform the lot into the new Montage apartments and accompanying retail space.
The new Nye’s — 1,300 square feet compared with the mammoth 11,000-square-foot old Nye’s — will sit in the space where the old polka bar used to be. The exterior of that space has mostly been kept intact, but the inside has been gutted.
Rob Jacob — who, along with his brother, grew up in the neighborhood — said it wasn’t in the original plans to create a sequel, but over time they felt the opportunity made sense.
“It was time for the old Nye’s to close, based on all the reasons we stated then,” Jacob said. “But it was one of those things where you keep thinking, keep thinking, keep thinking about it. Finally we figured out we can probably reopen it, but in a different way.
“We really just couldn’t stand to see anyone else go into the spot. It just felt right.”
The new iteration will mimic the old in some ways. The motif will still be red, gold and black, and the bar will look similar. And the jumbo martinis for which Nye’s was famous? They’ll return, as well. This time around, the piano bar is the focus, along with the occasional three-piece band.
And there will be plenty of differences. Food will no longer be on the menu. And the libation options have been significantly upgraded to include craft cocktails, craft beers, champagne and wine.
“In the old days, if someone came in and asked for a fancy martini, we’d say ‘We’re fancy — we have gin and vodka,’ ” Jacob said with a laugh. “But these days, you need to offer more.”
Everything in Nye’s Piano Bar, designed by architect Ed Wilms of DLR Group Minneapolis, will be new — from the floors to the light fixtures to the tables and booths — save for the classic sign, which will likely make an appearance either inside or out.
The Jacobs hope the inherent warmth of Nye’s — where 20-somethings sat next to 80-somethings — will endure.
“Nye’s was a classic part of a lot of people’s lives,” Jacob said. “It’s really the customers that own this thing. And we just felt like we had an obligation to bring it back.”
The original Nye’s space will include three other retail spots. Sonder Shaker, a cocktail bar, will open this winter. Two other spaces have not announced tenants. The Jacobs expect Nye’s Bar to debut the week of Christmas.