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Published December 02, 2013, 03:45 PM

In a Midwest state of mind: Moorhead native pays homage to home state with Brooklyn bar

NEW YORK - When Eric Odness goes to work in his new Brooklyn bar, he feels more like he’s in a hometown neighborhood bar than in a New York borough.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

NEW YORK - When Eric Odness goes to work in his new Brooklyn bar, he feels more like he’s in a hometown neighborhood bar than in a New York borough.

The Moorhead native wanted a place that was more Midwest than Midtown Manhattan or another hipster hangout in his Greenpoint neighborhood.

In early July, Odness and his business partners opened Lake Street, and it has already developed a following for its laid-back vibe and unpretentious approach.

The decision to open a bar came after the 36-year-old decided he needed to invest in his future.

“Being that I have zero education and all I know how to do is tend bar and play music, I thought, ‘I’m getting too old. I need to figure something out,’ ” he recalls. “So I just saved up money from the boy band and started a bar.”

The boy band he refers to is The Wanted, the British/Irish five-piece behind “Glad You Came” and “All Time Low.” Odness plays bass in the group’s touring band, a gig that garnered him some national TV exposure last month with appearances on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Live with Kelly & Michael,” “The Wendy Williams Show” MTV and the MLB Fan Cave, where he got to show Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Diamond his Twins tattoo.

After deciding to open a bar together, he and his partners took about 18 months to open the doors, most of it trying to find the right space. That space turned out to be literally under his nose. Lake Street is located on the ground floor of the apartment building Odness has been living in for seven years.

Living above his work space doesn’t bother him much.

“I’m usually in Malaysia or London,” he says with a laugh, referring to his busy touring schedule with The Wanted. He has two shows with the group this month, then starts a five-month tour in January, shortly after getting married in Minneapolis later this month.

While touring has kept him away from the bar, when he’s in town he pulls a couple of shifts a week.

And after years of working for other people, he enjoys having a place of his own.

“It’s way more rewarding,” he says. “I’m way nicer to customers. I’m happier, I suppose.”

Part of that happiness comes from bringing a taste of back home to Brooklyn. Lake Street proudly serves Old Dutch potato chips from Roseville, Minn., Salted Nut Rolls from St. Paul and a Minnesota-made beef jerky.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to serve Minnesota beers due to distribution rights.

“That’s a big bummer,” he says. “We constantly have people call for Premium and we have to let them down.”

They do have other Midwest beers, selling a lot of Goose Island from Chicago and Founders from Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We really wanted to do something different for this neighborhood,” he says of the mostly Polish area. “Most bars around here are dark and cavernous with loud music and packed with party dudes. There was nowhere around here that was just a good ‘bar’ bar.

“Our goal was to have a place you could go with your friends and talk without screaming. I’d be happy to have my grandma in here to have a glass of wine with me. That wouldn’t be possible with other bars on this street.”

While the bar stands out, he stresses that while some newspaper stories have called it a Minnesota bar, it’s really more a reflection of all of the Midwest.

His partners are Frank Bevan and Bobby Drake from Minneapolis, Rob Pope from Kansas and Stevie Howlett from Ireland.

(Bevan and Drake play with Odness in the band W/O, though Drake may be better known as the drummer for The Hold Steady. Pope plays bass for Spoon.)

Odness can’t really complain about the press coverage. Recently a flight attendant from Rochester, Minn., stopped in. After reading a write-up in Minneapolis’ City Pages, she scheduled a visit during her 12-hour layover, just after a shopping trip to Midtown Manhattan. She ordered an Old Milwaukee, some Old Dutch potato chips and a Salted Nut Roll and relaxed.

It’s an experience Midwesterners may take for granted. Odness recalls another group of Minnesotans who stopped in. After looking around, a confused man approached Odness and asked, “So, what makes this place Minnesotan?”

That was the point, Odness says. The bar is so like a regular bar back in the Midwest, locals wouldn’t think it was anything special.

While Lake Street (named after a Minneapolis thoroughfare) makes a point of airing the Minnesota Vikings games, the team’s woeful season hasn’t painted this Greenpoint spot with Purple Pride.

“It’s pretty dead now,” Odness says of Vikings fan presence. “Most of the fans that came in for the first four games have given up.”

Sounds just like home.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533