Up In Smoke? Little Jacks Going Condo

by Alex Stenback on November 28, 2005

Northeast Minneapolis’ quirky-landmark steakhouse Little Jack’s is going condo, according to sources involved with the project, and a recent article in Finance & Commerce (who hides their content behind a pay-only wall, damn them - link below, sort of.)

Located on Lowry Avenue Since 1932, Little Jack’s has cited a drop in revenue since the smoking ban was enacted in Minneapolis as a major factor in their decision to redevelop the 1+ acre site.  From the Finance & Commerce:

"We’ve seen a decline in business over the years. The smoking ban, I would say, was the nail in the coffin for us," said Troy Clark, CFO and director of development for Jewell One Inc., which owns Little Jack’s at 201 Lowry Ave. N.E. "Little Jack’s lost literally 40 percent of its clientele over night."

As of today, Little Jack’s remains open, though with hours much reduced (no lunch, dinner only, closing shortly thereafter) from its better days. Though still in planning stages, the developers look to break ground this spring, and anticipate around 70 condo units priced somewhere in the 200′s, with commercial and retail anchoring the project at street level.
Little Jack’s Gives Way to Mixed Use [knowledgeplex.org]

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

John D Schultz November 28, 2005 at 7:03 pm


As always, excellent commentary! I have been amazed by the number of restraunts in Mpls that have closed due to the smoking ban. In your opinion, do you feel that based on this decrease in restraunt traffic in Hennepin County has there been an equal increase in the surrounding metropolitan restraunt business?

It would stand to reason that the individuals that are “restraunt eaters” will continue to eat at restraunts. However, where are they going? Are they headed to Ramsey County where the ban is less restrictive? Is there an offsetting increase in restraunt revenues in non or partially-banned smoking counties?

Again, thank you for the excellent site!

Bob from ALAMN November 29, 2005 at 7:20 am

I have been amazed by the number of people who buy the bar bosses’ “smoking ban” excuse. As a long time patron of Little Jacks, I can tell you this day was coming long before the smoking ban. I guess it’s easier than admiting that Nordeast has changed, but LJ has not… Still, I’m sad to hear that day has come.

An recent economic study by Hennepin County showed a GROWTH in sales (both food and booze) since the ban. A number of new places have opened up (we can document 37 new places on our blog), as noted in a recent Star Trib story of downtown resturants.

Hennepin County is a better (busier) place since it went smokefree — healthier, too!

Bob Moffitt
Communications Director
American Lung Association of Minnesota

Editor November 29, 2005 at 10:55 am

I am not going to weigh in on all the nuances and effects of the smoking ban – in particular its impact on these local restaurants that claim to, or have been, pushed out of business by the smoking ban. I just have not been following the debate closely enough.

I do know this: The public is fickle, and the restaurant business is exceedingly hard – new ones open, and established players fold every year. Of the million or so reasons a restaurant fails, or is a roaring success, whether or not they allow smoking seems fairly far down the list, and in either case, nearly impossible to quantify.

It has helped some, and hurt others, and like it or not, in Minnesota, the smoking ban is a political winner. So it goes, whether you agree with it philosophically or not.

John D Schultz November 29, 2005 at 11:28 am

As an interesting note, I was contacted this morning by a restraunt in the St. Paul area. The restraunt owner indicated that they have experienced a 20 to 21% decrease in business since the Ramsey County ban went into place. As a result, the business has closed their doors.

Bob from ALAMN November 29, 2005 at 11:34 am

No argument here. The hospitality industry has always been tough, competitive and volitile. It was that way when I worked as a bartender years ago…

You are right also in commenting that supporting a smoking ban is “a political winner.” In the last election, canadiates in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington who spoke out in favor of the clean indoor air ordinances did well. Those who opposed smoking bans (or seemed to) did not fare as well.

Most observers expect Minnesota will be a smokefree state within the next few years. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

And now for a REAL ESTATE issue. Have you heard about the ALA’s Health House program, a national program based in St. Paul? We are working with DR Horton to build entire Health House communities near Sacramento and Reno. We plan one here in Minnesota, too, with Rogers-based Christian Builders. We have been written about in a number of news mediums, including Inman.

The idea is to build homes with better indoor air quality, and built-in features to prevent mold, radon, carbon monoxide, etc.

See more at this site:


Craig Westover November 29, 2005 at 2:20 pm

Bob –

Don’t confuse “Nordeast has changed” with government mucking around in the market. Markets do change; that’s why restaurants and bars voluntarily decide to go smoke-free. The market should decide which businesses survive and for how long — not government, or you borrowing the power of government.

Don’t confuse aggregate statistics with no harm to specific businesses. Smoking bans harm specific small businesses. The measure of government impact is not whether or not its revenues go down. You, Bob, have no right to put one person out of business to benefit another through the force of government without paying a price. If taxpayers had to reimburse businesses for the benefit of forcing them to go smoke-free, there might not be such enthusiasm for smoking bans.

Don’t confuse “a political winner” with a just cause. If that’s the criteria of what government should do, I shudder to think of what happens to the concept of minority rights.

Here’s another real estate issue for you, Bob. When little Jax goes condo, it’s not going to be Nordeaster’s purchasing those condos. It’s going to be folks of your ilk gentrifying the area, turning it into another Uptown — baby boomers wanting to move back to the city and take back something they thought they didn’t want. They want to remake the city into their image and gentrify this area — not through economic means, but by the government imposing it on people. “You working class stiffs go away. We take it. And we make it how we want it. And you pay for it, by the way.” Anyone care to bet whether or not TIF financing enters the picture.

But then, that process is probably a “political winner.”

Mr.x March 19, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Little Jacks aint going condo either. Apparently, some company called Too Fast to Die bought it, then sold it to a company called Jang, then Jang sold it to Boler Investments. It was never developed and sits vacant, a serious blemish on the intersection of 2nd and Lowry. It was foreclosed 5 months ago and bought at sale by a company called LET Lowry, LLC. The price was 520K. There is also a 2nd mtg to Wells Fargo for 90K. Sources tell me with the condo market in shambles, nobody want to touch 201 Lowry. Its current FMV is probably 300K. Sad day when the little bars in NE go down the tubes. You cannot rebuild places like that.

Mark Wernimont April 10, 2007 at 7:16 am

And to date the local smoking bans have closed 110+ bars and restaurants in the Twin Cities.


It’s funny how Bob from American Lung Association of MN has been silent about all these closings, which they testified to all our lawmakers wouldn’t happen.

James Cole January 5, 2008 at 4:04 am

I found this when looking up info about why the Denny’s in my area closed. Now I know why. Maryland’s brand new statewide Smoking Ban shut everything down in the realm of Diners. A smashing success, if you are out to destroy all of the Eatery Businesses. Anyone who dare try to say that Smoking Bans didn’t kill the Diners are simply lying anti-tobacco shills.

James Cole January 5, 2008 at 4:06 am

I found this when looking up info about why the Denny’s in my area closed. Now I know why. Maryland’s brand new statewide Smoking Ban shut everything down in the realm of Diners. A smashing success, if you are out to destroy all of the Eatery Businesses. Anyone who dare try to say that Smoking Bans didn’t kill the Diners are simply lying anti-tobacco shills.

Tim January 15, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I’m skeptical of the “110 closed businesses” due to the smoking ban. I have no political affiliations nor do I work for the government but I do patron, or used to, some of the restaurants on that list. Did the smoking ban help business, probably not. The shock of the change and the fickle public is no surprise. Would the restaurant have closed anyway, probably. I’ve done some research on some of the places on that list and found that reviews were terrible and business had been declining for quite some time. The Mall of America 4th floor never was doing very well despite some claims. There are a ton of factors to consider. I’m not sure what happened to Planet Hollywood but it wasn’t the smoking ban. Jillians, Players, et al were all owned by Dave and Busters so it’s no surprise they all went down at once. Hooter’s still remains busy…heh go figure.

I’m not saying the smoking bans don’t have a negative affect on these places but that in of itself cannot be the only reason they close. Hopps in Maple Grove was a good restaurant and I heard claims the smoking ban was the reason they closed. Odd since no one else around them closed. Christ, even that silly seafood place next door is still open…that place is terrible.

Deb Waughop February 12, 2008 at 10:34 pm

The smoking ban has hit Illinois since Jan.1st, and I am a bar owner who is sinking since this started. My busines has fallen at least 30 percent. I’ve owned the bar for 12 years and this ban is killing business. I can across this site because I’m searching for help. Businesses, including the gambling boat are way down. How can this possibly be good for the State. We don’t pull non smokers into the bar. The non smokers claim that now they can feel free to go to bars now. Sure! They sure aren’t supporting my smoke free bar.

Joe K. May 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Does anyone know who currently owns Little Jacks? If they would be interested in selling it?

Merdley September 25, 2008 at 7:51 am

Has anyone considered that the ban doesn’t ahve anything to do with the people who come to these establishments? Smoking bans are put into effect to make a safe work enviroment for employees.

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