Amsterdam Bar & Hall: A chat with co-owner Jarret Oulman

There was a wave of excitement in St. Paul when Amsterdam Bar and Hall first opened its doors in September. The new 450-capactiy venue, along with neighbors Eclipse Records and Big Table Studio, marked a new venture to increase the cultural footprint of the city. With established scene figures like Martin Devaney, Holly Newsom, and Dave Wiegardt on staff and two stages to host musicians, the new club shows great promise for a part of the city in need of a stable venue. Besides hosting a regular schedule of musical acts, Amsterdam also serves pub food with a Dutch persuasion, giving downtown patrons a reason to come by even if nobody is on the stage.

Gimme Noise caught up with co-owner Jarret Oulman to see how the location is doing a few months in, as well as to see how the owners divvy up tasks between the St. Paul location and its older sibling, the 331 Club in Nordeast Minneapolis.

Gimme Noise: What is the significance of the name? Was the "6 Club" out of the question?

Jarret Oulman: 6 Club was brought up briefly. But I wanted an identity to build off of that was cool and gave us a brand to build something around instead of a blank slate club logo/identity. Amsterdam was the perfect fit because it is a really cool city with a deeply inclusive, arts-focused culture. It is also a concept that has not been done well in the Twin Cities yet, so we have an opportunity to provide a true interesting experience for people.

How do the two owners split duties between the different bars?

We split up duties based on both what we are good at and where we live. I live in Northeast and Jon lives in St. Paul. So, naturally, he spends more time at Amsterdam and I spend more at the 331 Club. I run meetings and am responsible for finances and people. He likes to build things and he creates culture socially and through aesthetic and design.

What has changed since first opening?

We are actually doing it, building and supporting music scenes while creating a really cool and interesting place for Dutch food and beer from the Low Countries!

Do you view the club as more of a venue or as a restaurant-pub?

I don't think you need to differ. When people ask what kind of bar is the Amsterdam, I think that your answer would be a live music venue and Dutch-themed saloon.

How has St. Paul varied from Northeast and downtown Minneapolis? Is there anything that worked in Minneapolis but doesn't fit in the St. Paul location?

We don't have televisions in either Northeast or St. Paul. We tried that in downtown Minneapolis, but that didn't work out so well.

Northeast is special. We were lucky to find ourselves in the position on 13th in the community that has been so supportive of us for years. One thing that has been really cool about downtown St. Paul is that the happy hour working crowd has been really engaged in our music during happy hours.

Could you have landed between such similarly-minded neighbors without the city's involvement?

Nope. The city is also our landlord. They worked very strategically to make the opportunity seem like a healthy one with the Big Table Studio and Eclipse Records moving in on the block at the same time as the Amsterdam.

How much resource sharing occurs between you and your neighbors?

Plenty when it comes to people and events. Martin Devaney manages the Record Store and is also our entertainment booking.

You've primarily used the small stage so far, right? Any surprises in store for the big stage?

Yes! Starting in spring, watch for some really exciting stuff through the summer and into early fall. The Hall stage will be used at least twice per week.

On Feb. 22, the pub will be hosting the final beer and food pairing in a 3-dinner series presented by Summit Brewing and chef Thom Lowe. Tickets are available here. For a listing of upcoming live music, visit Amsterdam's website.

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