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Food & Drink

17 Months After Bus Crash, Acadia Café is Back—with Some Big Changes

Expect a lot more live music at the West Bank bar/restaurant/venue.

Brad Cimaglio purchased Acadia Café in late 2020, several months into the pandemic, so Covid-related hurdles were to be expected. The University of Minnesota Campus Connector bus that lodged itself inside the 122-year-old Minneapolis bar/venue in early 2022? Nobody could have seen that coming.

When we last spoke with Cimaglio, he anticipated that, following hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs, the historic West Bank space would be ready by the first anniversary of the crash, which miraculously produced no injuries. (Semi-hilariously, the UMPD incident report personified the lone "VICTIM" as "ACADIA CAFE.")

This past month, Acadia finally opened again to the public.

“We kinda had to get the place open, because the bills don’t stop," says Cimaglio, who also owns both Black Coffee & Waffle Bar locations. "We’ve been bled dry for the most part, so we kinda forced the bar open in a very boot-strapped way to get cooking.”

Structurally, 329 Cedar Ave. has been restored after extensive foundation work. Acadia has new ceilings, a new bar, and a renewed emphasis on live music. (Music has been a popular draw since Acadia opened in 2008, and for decades before that when The New Riverside Café helmed the address.) Cimaglio has watched venues like 400 Bar, Triple Rock Social Club, Nomad World Pub, and Viking Bar exit the storied West Bank music scene. He hopes his 100-capacity barroom serve as a launching pad for new Twin Cities acts to hone their sounds and find their first fans.

“Small, local venues have kind of been disappearing for up-‘n’-coming artists," he says. "We want bands in there seven nights a week.”

Cimaglio has been working with the sound guy from Palmer's Bar to update the PA system, one of several non-human casualties of the crash. “After the bus hit, with the giant gaping hole in the building, people kind of got in and cleaned us out," he says, adding that thieves made off with most of the audio gear and liquor. A third-party booker has carte blanche to fill the concert calendar, Cimaglio reports, and so far she has enlisted punk bands and folk acts; all genres will be represented, and several upstart artists who are thirsty for stage time have already reached out.

Literal thirsts will be satisfied via a growing beer list. Cimaglio says he'll gradually add tap lines as money starts flowing in. A scaled-back menu of Acadia's previous bar eats—sandwiches, jalapeño poppers, cauliflower wings—is available now, with one alluring signature item: The Burger 3.0. Cimaglio can't remember the origins of The Burger 1.0, but its successor appeared briefly at former downtown Itlaian spot Il Foro. It's a simple double-cheeseburger with special sauce that's well known within the service industry, Cimaglio says: "It’s not flashy but it’s the kind of burger that never lets you down.”

Unfortunately, there's no real update on the legal fallout from the bus disaster. Cimaglio says he and his landlord, Mutual Management Co., remain in mediation with First Transit, the Cincinnati-based bus operator. “We’re probably never actually going to know what happened," Acadia's GM Katie Essler told us last year when asked how an 87-year-old bus driver plowed through her establishment, seemingly unprovoked. A vehicle inspection conducted by the Minnesota State Patrol "did not reveal any major equipment malfunctions with the bus, including the braking system," and surveillance footage didn't depict any evasive maneuvers by the driver.

“It’s funny, the path we’ve taken to get here: the pandemic, the bus," Cimaglio says, adding that Acadia is open now daily from 5 p.m. to close. "At this point we’re just seeing if this is something the community really wants, this type of venue and bar. We’re going to give it a go.”

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