East Sider picks up historic bar’s reigns

Schwietz Saloon got picked up by a new owner, East Sider Ed Bertges, who’s hoping to open the place as soon as August. (submitted photo)

Schwietz’s could open back up this summer

Schwietz Saloon, the well-known, well-trodden bar near Payne and Case avenues, could be open again as soon as August. It’s been closed since December 2011, but was purchased last October by small-business owner Ed Bertges.

The East Side resident is hoping to open the place up as soon as Aug. 1 with a full kitchen and bar. He plans to change the name slightly by adding Eatery to the end of it. He has yet to acquire licenses from the city council but expects to see it show up on a council agenda imminently.

Adding food to the picture was a necessity under current city code, he said, adding that he’s got a menu he’s excited about. He’s hoping to eventually run the place like a brewpub, which would include brewing beer on the premises.

Among the food items would be something he’s calling the Schwietz’s Signature Spinners -- rolled out biscuit dough flattened and covered with seasoned meat, then rolled up and baked, and then covered in mashed potatoes and gravy. He also said there will be fried catfish.

For a steal

Bertges had been eying the place for a few years, but finally closed on it in October for a steal -- the place was originally listed at $600,000 when he was first looking, but went all the way down to a final purchase price of $50,000, which he paid in cash.

Since he bought it, he said he’s put over $100,000 into the place to install a modern kitchen and tidy up the building. One project involved demolishing the drop ceilings to reveal the original, decorative copper ceiling.

Overall, he says it’s been a slow process fixing the place up and getting everything OK’ed by the city.

The part that’s perhaps been the most vexing has been the parking -- the lot attached to the building has only 13 spots, and even with another 13 spots from a Chinese restaurant next door, he falls short of the 50 spaces required by the city.

“The whole process was just difficult and slow,” Bertges said.

Currently, he’s only eligible to apply for a license to stay open from 5 p.m. to midnight but is hoping the community council can help him expand his business hours.

He said ideal operating hours would be 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and staying open until 1 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Leslie McMurray, director of the District 5 Community Council, said the parking regulations are perhaps an unnecessary hindrance.

“We felt some of the current code requirements for parking are too restrictive for new businesses,” she said.

The District 5 Community Council is recommending the city allow him to be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week.

“It would allow this business to be more competitive,” McMurray said. “Business on (Payne) Avenue is a good thing, and people have looked forward to having the historic building open.”

A long history

The saloon has been a part of local history for quite a while. The bar was kept in the Schwietz family for two generations before being sold to another family, Bertges said.

Former East Sider Cathy Pilla, a cousin of the Schwietz family, said the place “was like a Cheers” back in the 1980s when she worked there.

Frank Schwietz, another cousin of the former bar owners, recalled the place as being a former social hub for the Payne-Phalen area.

“They were into all of the neighborhood stuff back in the times when the neighborhood bars were more of a social place where everybody went,” he said.

Pilla said the place was once a big part of Harvest Fest, the September festival along Payne Avenue.

Bertges is hoping his new plan for the business will allow it to once again have a community role. He said he hopes to host District 5 council meetings in the upstairs, as well as sponsor classic car shows.

“Something fun for the kids to come to,” he said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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