The owner of Mandan’s newest bar wants his downtown establishment to become the city’s gathering spot, a place where residents can enjoy local craft beers and North Dakota wines.
Garrett Hooker, 34, last week opened Black Lions on West Main Street.
“I always wanted to own my own business, and I always wanted to own a bar,” Hooker said. “The more I thought about it and the more I looked into it, the more I decided to go for it.”
Hooker, a native of McIntosh, S.D., served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 2007 to 2014, completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He named his bar in honor of his former unit, and patrons will notice photos from his military career on the walls of the establishment. He’s also hunted up old family photos and likes to share the stories behind them. Some of the photos are of family gatherings, while others are of family members during their time in the military. There’s room for more, and customers can post their photos, too.
Black Lions is a beer and wine pub. Most of the craft beer on hand is made in Mandan or Bismarck, Hooker said.
“If we can’t find it there, then we stay within the state,” he said. Popular national brands are stocked, too. The wines in stock are from North Dakota too, with some possibly being added from South Dakota.
The search for a place to do business started a couple of years ago, Hooker said. When his wife, Wendy, a registered nurse, found a job as a wound care nurse, they decided to stay in the area.
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When they found the space on Mandan's Main Street, they thought at first it was too small. Now, he said, "we kind of like the quaint and cozy."
The business is the first to occupy the 865-square-foot space in the mixed-use building, which was constructed as part of Mandan's Renaissance Zone project. The building was the first infill project on properties acquired for remediation of an underground downtown diesel fuel spill. With the addition of the pub, the commercial space in the building is now full.
Black Lions "brings something unique" to Mandan's downtown, said Business Development and Communications Director Ellen Huber.
"It's a quiet setting where people can gather, watch a game," she said.
Hooker said psychological studies show a person is most comfortable at home, followed by his or her workplace. A person’s “third place,” he said, is usually a bar.
“We kind of want to be Mandan’s third place,” he said.
Black Lions opens at 3 p.m. on weekdays, noon on Saturdays and Sundays.