The Mill: McNally Smith College of Music closure leaves students, faculty with uncertain futures

The West facing entrance of McNally Smith College of Music // Photo by Aaron Job, The Growler

The West facing entrance of McNally Smith College of Music // Photo by Aaron Job, The Growler

McNally Smith College of Music abruptly announced that it will be closing December 20, immediately following the end of the semester. The news first came as an email to the faculty late on December 14 from board member and co-founder Jack McNally. McNally informed staff that they wouldn’t be able to cover their Friday paychecks, but pleaded that they finish out the semester to ensure that students receive full credits, assuring that the school would do everything they can to cover wages owed.

According to the president of the private music school, they were forced to shut down after unexpectedly failing to secure funding. The school was in the process of converting from a for-profit institution to a not-for-profit in an effort to address mounting financial concerns. Since 2012, enrollment at the school had dropped 30 percent, which has exacerbated the dilemma of needing to offer more scholarships in order to remain competitive.

Chris Osgood, McNally Smith’s vice president of community relations, told MPR that he was blindsided by the news. “After you’ve been at a place for nine and a half years, and you do the things we do and are part of a community where really everyone is truly beloved to me … it’s really been a wonderful run,” he said.

The McNally community has come together since to offer their support of students and laid-off staff. Several alumni are planning a benefit concert to raise money for teachers suddenly out of a job in the midst of the holiday season. Meanwhile, state education officials have promised to assist McNally students in coordinating transfers to partnered universities. The 38 seniors who were unsure about the status of their graduation ceremony crossed the History Theatre Stage to receive their diplomas on Saturday, torn with feelings of excitement, anger, and sadness.


NorthGate Brewing founders are selling the brewery to Tod Fyten // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

NorthGate Brewing founders are selling the brewery to Tod Fyten // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

After nearly five years in business, the founders of NorthGate Brewing have decided to sell the brewery. Tod Fyten of Fyten Capital and Fyten Family Breweries is currently in the process of purchasing NorthGate. It remains unclear what Fyten intends to do with the space, but the sale indicates a continuing trend of ownership changes and brewery closures across Minnesota.

F-Town Brewing business and marketing manager Travis Temke is in the early stages of developing a brewery and restaurant in an old firehouse in the West Seventh neighborhood of St. Paul. The new concept would use the equipment from F-Town, signaling the Faribault brewery will close should Temke’s plans move forward.

Provisions from the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act were included in the GOP tax bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon. The Senate is set to vote on the tax bill Tuesday evening. If passed into law, the bill will reduce the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than two million barrels annually; and reduce the federal excise tax to $16 per barrel on the first six million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers.

The Better Beer Society and Matty O’Reilly are partnering up to bring Better Beer Society University back to Republic in 2018 with a BBSU Showcase. The Showcase uses education to open up access to craft brewing culture for anyone interested. Each week of the “semester,” BBSU will sit down with breweries who are making moves and bringing craft beer to the next level.

In other national news, the Brewers Association published its end of the year report, announcing that America has passed 6,000 total breweries, with 98 percent of them being small and independent craft brewers. Though the exact total has yet to be revealed, it’s at least 700 more breweries than the United States had in 2016 (5,301).

Able Seedhouse + Brewery has become the first brewery in Minnesota to brew with its own malt since the Prohibition, brewing up a 40-barrel batch of Rye Brown Ale using caraway seeds for the malt.

Dunkin Donuts is collaborating on a limited-edition stout with Worcester, Massachusetts–based Wormtown Brewery just in time for the darkest day of the year, December 21. “DDark Roasted Brew” will be the first beer to use Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast beans, giving it intense flavors of roasted coffee.

TimberFish Technologies and Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, both located in Westfield, New York, are exploring the possibilities of converting the brewery’s byproducts and wastewater into viable fish feed for species like trout, bass, perch, and catfish. The operation is in response to an ongoing effort to reduce energy use and resource costs of aquaculture by utilizing waste products.

Grand Rounds Brewing Co. in Rochester has come under fire for a billboard advertising a beer called “Easy Minnesota Blonde,” which a local pastor found sexist. The can’s label depicts a blonde woman being kissed by a dark-haired man and includes the slogan, “Mark your territory.” Grand Rounds CEO Tessa Leung has defended the billboard, arguing that it was inspired by her favorite movie, “Easy A,” and that the label is meant to be empowering to women.


Kyatchi Sushi and Hotdogs on the grill // Photo courtesy Kyatchi Facebook

Kyatchi Sushi and Hotdogs on the grill // Photo courtesy Kyatchi Facebook

Kyatchi officially opened the doors of its new Lowertown location to the public on December 15. The new spot, located in the former home of the Tanpopo Noodle Shop, will continue to focus on sustainably-sourced sushi and hotdogs like its elder Kingfield sibling.

The Draft Horse in Northeast took to Facebook last week to ask for help from its loyal customers after suffering from low traffic due to the construction across the street. The plea has apparently been effective, with the original post being shared over 350 times. There’s a much-needed dose of holiday generosity for you.

It’s sadly official: Pepito’s is closing for good at the end of the month. After falling behind on taxes and losing their liquor license in October, on top of owner Joe Minjares’ battle with pulmonary fibrosis, the South Minneapolis Tex-Mex institution is calling it quits.

Four metro area Bruegger’s Bagels locations will be closing due to low sales. Three locations in Minneapolis and one in Woodbury will be shutting its doors, leaving us in Minnesota with just 38 spots to choose from.

Tori Ramen is temporarily shut down after a fire broke out in its basement late Wednesday night, apparently caused by old wiring. The damage was originally thought to close the restaurant down for the next several weeks, but upon further inspection ramen-lovers will be able to return “very soon,” according to the restaurant’s most recent Facebook post.

Minnesotans took to Twitter to debate “Minnesota-style” pizza after Red’s Savoy proclaimed itself to be the home of pizza served “Sota-Style since 1965.” Now that the dust has settled, it’s been determined that Minnesota-style pizza is traditionally square-cut with thin, flexible crust, and loaded with cheese and toppings.


Treehouse Records // Photo by Chris Valenty and courtesy Treehouse Records Facebook

Treehouse Records // Photo by Chris Valenty and courtesy Treehouse Records Facebook

Minneapolis vinyl shop Treehouse Records will be closing its doors on December 31 after 44 years in business. Owner Mark Trehus, who bought the shop in 2001 after managing it for 16 years, says that while the shop is under no financial distress, he’s decided it’s time to move on in response to changing music tastes.

In addition to the myriad of shows and events leading up to Super Bowl LII, there will also bea four ziplines rigged across the Mississippi River for daredevils to enjoy in the 10 days leading up to the big game. Canada-based Ziptrek EcoTours will build four towers all starting from Nicollet Island to support the lines, the longest being 750 feet.

The Loft Literary Center announced plans that it will be holding an annual two-day book festival titled Wordplay. The inaugural event in 2019 is expected to bring 100 authors to Minneapolis, and draw around 10,000 from around the state to festival events at the Loft headquarters at Open Book, the Mill City Farmers Market, and The Commons park near U.S. Bank Stadium.

This week Hennepin County Library is launching MnSpin, a music streaming and downloading platform with access to over 50 albums by local artists from the library’s database.

The Mill is The Growler’s regular digest of all things new and notable in the world of food, drink, and culture. Stop back weekly for restaurant news, brewery rumors, and more. Have some news you want to share? Got some gossip to dish? Drop us a line at [email protected]