Soccer bar Black Hart of Saint Paul plans to expand this winter, having purchased the empty field next door to build out a large patio space and rain garden.
The queer-friendly, soccer-focused spot on University Avenue and Albert Street is still waiting on a couple final city approvals, including a liquor license expansion. But owner Wes Burdine hopes the patio will be up and running by the beginning of next year’s Major League Soccer season in late February or early March.
About two-thirds of the new land will become the patio, he said, while the remaining area will be converted into a rain garden to help ensure clean water runoff. Burdine plans for the patio to be a gravel space with plants that feel like an “oasis in Midway,” plus, eventually, to have Bocce ball courts and a space for food trucks. And of course, several large screens for soccer.
U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe poses in front of a mural of herself Sunday at The Black Hart of St. Paul in the Midway neighborhood. Courtesy of Jonathan Pavlica
“It’ll take us a while to make it look and feel the way I imagine, but having a space that just looks beautiful,” Burdine said. “We’ve got the Megan Rapinoe mural, which is going to be a central part of the patio. We’ve got lots of native plants that are built in as part of it, just to make it a gorgeous spot.”
Burdine, who lives near the bar, said he’s had his eye on the grassy land since Black Hart opened four years ago but was unable to afford it; real estate speculators, he said, hold onto plots of land like this one for years, waiting for prices to skyrocket even higher. Meanwhile, the empty lots just collect trash.
“I walk around my neighborhood and see all these places that are just left empty, as people wait for massive paydays,” Burdine said. “And I think it’s nice to finally take one of those spots and make it look nicer, and make it actually be a part of the neighborhood.”
New developments in city policy will likely support other outdoor spaces like this, too. The St. Paul City Council this week unanimously decided to relax certain licensing requirements to help restaurants more easily add outdoor dining areas. Burdine also specifically praised City Council Member Mitra Jalali’s willingness to provide advice and support for local neighborhood business projects like Black Hart’s patio.
The bar has quickly become a mainstay of Twin Cities soccer since opening in 2018, the year after Minnesota United FC played its first Major League Soccer season and the year before nearby Allianz Field was finished. Burdine has also been involved in founding the women’s Minnesota Aurora FC, which played its first games this year. Black Hart will also be open for every single game during this year’s FIFA World Cup, which starts on Saturday, Nov. 20 — yes, including the 4 a.m. matches — and is offering drink discounts and prize giveaways throughout the tournament.
The Twin Cities soccer scene, Burdine said, is fast-growing but intentional about staying community-focused.
“Even as I want to try to contribute to that, I’ve always been really inspired by the people I’ve met who view soccer as a place to build wonderful, supportive communities, and use soccer as a way to harness our passion and as a way to make a better Twin Cities,” he said.
Black Hart of Saint Paul: 1415 W. University Ave.; 651-528-8028; blackhartstp.com