Sports Club getting complete makeover and new name
Restaurateurs Tom Tomaro and Mike Tupa were getting into more than they realized when they purchased Bob Smith’s Sports Club last summer and set about remodeling the long-time Hudson establishment in October.
“You got that right!” Tomaro replied with a laugh when a caller said that it appeared that the project had grown in scope.
Last June, Tomaro told the Hudson City Council that they intended to keep the bar and restaurant open as they peeled back the layers of the interior to create a rustic lodge atmosphere.
But when the new owners began peeling back the layers, one thing led to another.
The business closed for remodeling on Oct. 15. The goal is to have it open again, under the new name Smilin’ Moose Lodge Bar & Grill, by the first week in March.
The new garage-door-style and sliding-patio windows turned out to be too tall for the low drop ceiling.
When the ceiling was taken out, another was discovered. And the removal of the second drop ceiling revealed the original 13-foot-high, wooden ceiling.
Tomaro said it was like opening Pandora’s box. He added with a laugh, “I’m hoping it’s all positive stuff we’re pulling out of the box.”
There have been numerous “oh, wow” moments, he said. “It’s just been an extraordinarily larger project than we anticipated.”
The interior of the building has been completely gutted. New floors and walls are going in, and the old high ceiling was sandblasted to return it to its natural color.
“We had to do just a tremendous amount of work to clean it up,” Tomaro said of the ceiling. “It was just a bird’s nest of wires and things hanging from it.”
A few original chandeliers were among the things attached to it.
The ceiling also has a huge beam running the entire length of the building from east to west.
“It’s just a gorgeous ceiling. If you’ve ever been to the Freight House in Stillwater, it’s very similar to that ceiling,” Tomaro said.
The new owners had planned to keep the old horseshoe bar, but when the ceiling was raised, it looked out of place in the middle of the room, Tomaro said. So a new longer and skinnier bar (25- by 10-foot) that isn’t attached to the wall will be installed.
There’s a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on the roof, and new duct work inside. The south wall will have a big gas fireplace with a picture of a smiling moose above it.
Pleased with the outcome
While the project has turned out to be more expensive for the owners, Tomaro believes patrons will like the result.
“I think everybody is going to be really, really excited about it when they see it -- because it’s great use of the space,” he said.
The highlight is the elevated views the big windows offer. At the front of the building, patrons will be able to see all the way down Second Street. The rear of the building will provide views of Lakefront Park and the St. Croix River.
“So it is the best of both worlds for views of downtown,” Tomaro said.
They’re returning the building to close to what it was like spatially on the interior when it was built in the 1800s, he said.
“There’s a little wow factor, I think,” he added. “We really like it. We think the space is just amazing.”
Tomaro wanted to emphasize, however, that going into the project the partners’ goal was to preserve as much of the old Sports Club as they could.
“When we got into this, we realized it just wasn’t feasible,” he said.
The exterior of the building also will have a new look.
In addition to the new windows that will open the restaurant to the outdoors in warm weather, the building will get new log siding with faux stone accents and a new awning.
Tomaro said the menu will feature “fast, casual” entrees, including hand-pattied burgers, ribs and the broasted chicken that was a Sports Club specialty.
He said it be will “down the middle” in price in comparison to the menus of other downtown Hudson restaurants. It won’t be high-end, but a nice meal and dining experience, he said.
The Smilin’ Moose also will serve breakfast on weekend mornings.
There will be plenty of TVs for patrons who want to watch a game and have a beer.
Tomaro and Tupa have extensive experience in the restaurant business.
Tomaro also owns G.B. Leighton’s Pickle Park in Fridley, Minn., and Babe’s Music Bar in Lakeville, Minn.
Tupa owns the Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon chain with locations in Woodbury, Apple Valley, Blaine, Maple Grove and Rochester, Minn., and Grand Forks, N.D.