Round-up Bar and Grill plans new patio space

Round-up Bar and Grill owner Mike Ronning stands outside the site of a new side patio. Landscaping, furniture, games and a small stage will be built on the site of the former Fine Frog Emporium. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

A longstanding Duluth bar known for its family-owned roots and connection to country music will add a new outdoor patio after an adjacent antique store was condemned and torn down earlier this year.

The Round-up Bar and Grill, 415 E. Fourth St., will construct space for outdoor dining and bar service along with a small stage on the east side of its building this summer. Fencing and signage have already been assembled and final landscaping work, lighting and furniture installation is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

Round-up owner Mike Ronning said the patio will be open this summer. He said the space will be similar to outdoor areas found at local breweries.

“We’re working on it,” said Ronning. “I’ve got it pretty much ready to go. It’s going to be a fenced in area, with tables and (bean) bags — recreational stuff. It’s going to be pretty nice.”

The site abuts a community garden managed by Essentia Health in collaboration with Udac, an educational program for individuals with disabilities.

The site of the former Fine Frog Emporium has been cleared and work will begin on patio installation adjacent to the Round-Up Bar and Grill on East Fourth Street.

The new patio will occupy the former location of Terry’s Fine Frog Emporium, 417 E. Fourth St. The antique store had been closed to the public for years and was being used as a warehouse and work space for By & By Estate and Moving Sales.

Business and building owner Terry Post said he purchased the property and vacant building in 1985 and operated a record store at the location for several years. In the 1990s, the store was expanded to feature a variety of antiques. The business was named the Fine Frog Emporium after someone smashed a front window and stole a bullfrog taxidermied in the pose of a horn player.

Post said the building was divided into two sections when he purchased it. One section had been constructed in 1881 as a house and served as a barbershop until the 1950s. A storefront was added on Fourth Street around the turn-of-the-century. It housed, among other things, a dress shop, women’s hairdresser, hardware store and hamburger stand over the years.

By the time Post established an estate sale business in 2005 the site had become his antique warehouse and headquarters space. He said the city notified him around 2019 that the property did not meet zoning or building code.

The Fine Frog Emporium was being used to warehouse antiques by Terry Post, owner of By & By Estate and Moving Sales. The property was condemned by Duluth city officials. (Photo via Google Street View).

“Without saying a single solitary word to me they condemned the place,” said Post. “Of course, I wanted to find out what was going on and they just kept moving the football, moving the goalposts back.”

Post filled a folder with city correspondence and notices but was unable to satisfy building improvement orders. He met with fire department officials and attended a hearing on the matter. “It went on and on for four or five years,” he said. “They just plain wouldn’t let me keep my place.”

Duluth Public Information Officer Kelli Latuska said Post had no utility service to the building. She was unable to comment further on the condemnation process.

Post said he was glad that he could sell his property to Ronning, a shirt-tail relative, but he said the condemnation issues led to a low sale price.

“I was paying taxes on a $180,000 property and I sold it for $34,000,” said Post. “I don’t have any sour grapes … but I really, really did get a raw deal.”

Ronning said the city offered him Duluth 1200 Fund resources to help purchase the building and pay for its demolition. Managed by an independent board, the Duluth 1200 Fund provides low-interest loans as an incentive for businesses to improve properties and add jobs.

“With all the stuff the city is doing out in the West End with building renovation, they actually contacted us and wanted something done,” he said. “We’re pretty known for our food, but other than darts, there’s not a lot to do so this will be an expansion of that.”

This undated photo shows the Eagle Tavern — now the Round-Up Bar and Grill, 415 E. Fourth St., next to Loiselle Liquor Store. The liquor store recently changed hands and is now the North Shore Bottle Shop. (Photo courtesy Round-up Bar and Grill).

Established after prohibition as a tied-house and once named the Eagle Tavern, the bar was purchased by Marv and Connie Sorby in 1974. At that time it was called Trigs; the Sorbys changed the name to the Round-up Bar and Grill in 1979 and sold it to Ronning, Connie’s son, 20 years later.

Ronning, a longtime musician with the band Country Junction, said he plans to host live music occasionally on a small patio stage. Inside, the bar features a large collection of show posters and framed photographs of classic country artists. A kitchen serves breakfast and late-night dinner until 11 p.m.

Post said the patio will provide a good addition to the neighborhood. He said he was pleased to drive by and see a new sign recognizing the site’s history as the Fine Frog Emporium.

“There was no hope for him to ever expand his business in that tiny little lot with no parking unless I sold him mine,” said Post. “So at least now he has the chance to turn the place into something special.”

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