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Published November 06, 2011, 04:49 PM

Ice bar coming to Canal Park in Duluth

Duluth, MN -- Little Angie’s Cantina & Grill usually stops serving on its outdoor deck by mid-November. But this year, the popular Canal Park eatery will extend its outdoor dining season straight through the winter months with the help of a new feature: an ice bar.

Duluth, MN -- Little Angie’s Cantina & Grill usually stops serving on its outdoor deck by mid-November. But this year, the popular Canal Park eatery will extend its outdoor dining season straight through the winter months with the help of a new feature: an ice bar.

The restaurant has hired Chris Swarbrick, a professional ice builder and sculptor from Elsworth, Wis., to construct its latest cold-weather attraction, scheduled to open Dec. 9, weather permitting.

The 15-by-25-foot structure will be erected on the restaurant’s deck, and a tent will be pitched to shelter it from direct sun. Barring unseasonably warm weather, the bar could remain in business through mid-February, said Brian Daugherty, president of Grandma’s Restaurant Co., which owns and operates Little Angie’s.

Daugherty considers the ice bar a natural fit.

“We’re right across the street from the Jingle Bus, and we’re often busy with people waiting for a ride to Bentleyville anyway,” Daugherty said. “It seemed like the perfect winter setup.”

After the holidays and the closure of Bentleyville, the bar will host an invitational ice-carving competition. The contest will occur Jan. 8, but artists’ creations will remain on lighted display through the duration of the season.

Daugherty said the full Little Angie’s menu will be available to patrons of the bar, which will be dubbed the Opulent Ice Lounge.

Swarbrick’s services have been in demand around the nation, and his work has taken center stage at Minus5, a swanky ice bar in Las Vegas. Assisting Swarbrick with the Duluth installation will be Paul Madsen, a local chef and ice sculptor.

Madsen said the bar will be built out of 50 or so 300-pound ice blocks. That’s north of seven tons of ice.

Much of the ice will be hand worked on site with chisels, chainsaws and other cutting tools. But Madsen said Swarbrick’s sophisticated shop includes a CNC milling machine that can etch complicated images into the ice.

“Any time I can work with a guy that talented, it’s a pleasure,” Madsen said.

Swarbrick will be building two other ice bars in the Northland this year, with each installation costing upwards of $10,000.

Last year, Swarbrick constructed a bar at Grand Superior Lodge.

It was so successful that Dexter Baxter, the lodge’s food and beverage manager, decided to hire Swarbrick again and try to raise the bar, so to speak.

“If you thought last year’s ice bar was spectacular, wait until you see this year’s,” Baxter said. “This is something we think we’ll want to make into an annual event.”

Grand Superior Lodge will run its bar under the name Blu. The bar is slated to open Dec. 21 and will do business only on Fridays and Saturdays as it did last year.

This winter, Swarbrick also is on tap to build a third ice bar at Lutsen’s Caribou Highlands, another Odyssey Resort property.

Baxter explained that after last year’s experience with Blu at Grand Superior, Odyssey was impressed.

“It was a lot more successful than we had anticipated,” he said. “It brought people up the Shore even during what’s usually the slowest part of the season for us.”

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