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ROBBINSDALE, Minn. - One of Minnesota's most popular and unique restaurants, Travail, is closing only to expand its presence in Robbinsdale by adding two additional eateries.

Travail will eventually reopen in another Robbinsdale location along with a companion bar and sandwich shop called The Rookery.

Travail will close on April 6. In its spot, Pig ate my Pizza will open three weeks after Travail closes. All of Travail's employees will be retained for the new pizza place.

"Pig ate my Pizza is a pizza eatery concept that we have been throwing around," said Travail co-owner Mike Brown. "I was actually one of the first concepts that we actually thought of."

Brown said the pizza place concept predated the idea for Travail, which often has long lines on West Broadway waiting outside the door, since the restaurant takes no reservations.

Brown said Pig ate my Pizza will have the limited seating reconfigured to allow for more large parties since he believes a pizzeria draws larger groups.

A block up West Broadway is an old two-story building that the city has been planning to redevelop. It is being used presently for Police Swat team training, but will be razed to make way for two new restaurants. The plan is to open a new Travail and The Rookery on that site.

"That element is a separate restaurant, but it will be completely transparent. You will be able to see everything as you walk in. There will be no walls," explained Brown. "That will be called The Rookery and they will be serving small plates like Tapas-style to kind of hold people that might be waiting for Travail."

The entire project is to be completed in September. The loss of Travail for the summer does not concern city officials.

"No, it is not a bad thing," said Robbinsdale City Manager Marcia Glick. "We have been working with the chefs at Travail for almost a year, looking for a place that they could expand and try some new concepts at a new location."

She said the building up the street filled the bill.

"The Robbinsdale Economic Development Authority is helping with the funding," said Glick. "It is using a tax increment financing district to help pay for the acquisition and demolition of the current site. Then, (Travail will) have private funding to help with the build-out and then the new restaurants."

About $1 million of the more than $1.6 million project is a private bank loan by Travail's owners.

Adding to the attractiveness of the site for Travail is the planned Bottineau line Light Rail project. That public transit would be the fourth light rail line in the Twin Cities, after the Hiawatha, Central Corridor and Southwest Corridor lines. The Bottineau line is to run parallel with West Broadway's downtown, bringing passengers within a block of the stores and restaurants.

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