Adam Bailey’s business may have been shut down for more than two months during Minnesota’s stay-at-home order, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working.
Bailey, the owner of The Jack on Cloquet Avenue, didn’t do curbside pick-up or deliver food during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, but he spent the time remodeling the bar to provide more space and a different atmosphere when he reopened.
Bailey ripped out the old bar and replaced it with a corrugated steel base and a new bar top. He also got rid of the drop ceiling, raising it about 6 feet and exposing the original ceiling of the building.
Bailey expanded the seating capacity of The Jack by about 20 people by removing a column and wall in the back room of the bar and getting rid of a pool table.
In the process, Bailey revealed the ornately designed ceiling decorations and what he believes is wallpaper that is original to the nearly 100-year-old building.
Another big change is Bailey added 10 big screen TVs to the bar area and three 120-inch projection screens in the back room.
With 24 taps featuring a number of local and Minnesota-based breweries — including beers from Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors and Surly Brewing Co. in Minneapolis — Bailey said he wanted a “fresh start” for The Jack as Cloquet’s premier spot to catch a game and grab a drink.
“I think this area needed a place like this — a place where you can watch your favorite team or game,” he said.
Business has been steady since The Jack partially reopened to outdoor-only seating June 1, according to Bailey. Since the initial opening, bars were allowed to open to 50% capacity inside and Bailey has brought back his entire staff from before the shutdown and even hired two new employees.
The hires are important to Cloquet and Carlton County, particularly right now. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported an unemployment rate in Carlton County of more than 11% in May, more than three times the rate in January. Cloquet's unemployment rate in May was more than 13%.
Bailey acknowledged many businesses — including his own — have a long road ahead of them, but hopes the changes at The Jack will encourage people to come out and hopes the changes provide a “big city look with a small town feel.”
“My thought was that the next three years are going to be tough,” Bailey said. “I thought I needed to give people a reason to come out ... We’ve had such terrible news in 2020 — even if it’s just for half an hour — it’s somewhere they can enjoy a beverage and have a laugh or a smile.”
Bailey’s renovation of The Jack was one of several at local bars and restaurants during the pandemic. Carmen’s Bar & Restaurant on Big Lake Road as well as Pedro’s Grill and Cantina and Cloquet Bar & Lounge, both on Cloquet Avenue, all had their own renovation projects.