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Food & Drink

TILT Pinball Bar Just Bought the Ol’ Liquor Lyle’s

The beloved Minneapolis dive will be born again as a pinball bar.

Someone from team TILT entering the ol' Lyle's space.
Provided

Late last Friday, the owners of TILT Pinball Bar finally revealed “the worst-kept secret” in the service industry, according to co-owner John Galvin: The Minneapolis bar will be moving from its current Whittier location and into the iconic Liquor Lyle’s space at Hennepin & Franklin. 

Lyle’s closed permanently in early 2021, after going dark for about a year due to COVID lockdown measures. In December, Racket broke news that the 10,000-square-foot building was available for $1 million. “You could have it up and operating in less than a week,” broker Jeff Salzbrun with Commercial Equities Group told us. 

The team behind TILT scored the property for $700,000, though Galvin estimates it’ll take more than a week to bring it back to life. The timeline is “pretty fluid,” and he anticipates TILT—which will soon be rebranded as LITT Pinball Bar for undisclosed legal reasons—will be up ‘n’ running at 2021 Hennepin Ave. in about four months. 

“I’ve always wanted to grow and expand,” he says. “More machines, more room for people to lounge and hang out. We’re super excited.”

Specifically, the expanded TILT will go from 25 machines to around 40. With regard to food and drink, Galvin says to expect “cool new stuff” alongside familiar favorites. 

“As a beer guy, I’m excited that we’ll have a proper-sized beer cooler,” he says. “We’re not going to go crazy, but we’ll have an expanded menu. More options, more deep-fried stuff because we have that capacity now.”

Launched in 2017, TILT has built a dedicated following of pinball-heads from around the metro. Galvin is quick to credit that community for the growth and expansion of his business, which was named Best New Bar in 2018 by some defunct outlet called City Pages.

Opened in 1963, Lyle’s became a south Minneapolis institution that attracted folks from all walks of life—students, townies, journalists, local celebs (Josh Hartnett, Vince Flynn, David Carr, Tom Arnold), blue-collar workers, musicians, whoever. Killer 2-4-1 drink deals and wings have clear cross-cultural appeal. (Click here to read Andy Sturdevant’s terrific Lyle’s obit from Heavy Table.)

“Bars close left and right, but Lyle’s is iconic; we don’t change much, and that’s our secret,” former co-owner Ken Meshbesher said in this fun 2015 MinnPost oral history of Lyle’s. “I don’t know what the future holds for Lyle’s. Look at Nye’s. Who would ever believe Nye’s would close? Nye’s is to Northeast what we are to Uptown.”

Crucially, will Lyle’s trademark red vinyl booths survive the transition to TILT? I pressed Galvin about the fate of that squeaky seating.

“Red isn’t really our brand… that’s kinda the struggle,” he says with a chuckle, noting that every element of the remodel is currently in flux; the future of the booths is being debated internally. “We’re going to have to get creative. We want this to be our concept and our brand, just on a slightly larger scale. We certainly plan to keep an element or two of Lyle’s in there.”