Dirk Petersen and Andrew McCarthy

Retired Norfolk Nucor general manager Dirk Petersen (left) and restaurant owner Andrew McCarthy stand together inside the century-old building that will open as District Table & Tap. The mural in the background was painted by Petersen’s daughter, Tess Kilpatrick-Petersen, and reflects the highlights and history of the community. Petersen and McCarthy gave a lot of credit to city officials and local economic development entities for bringing together the pieces that made the renovation and restaurant opening possible. 

A century-old building in downtown Norfolk has new life thanks to a young entrepreneur and a retired Nucor manager.

The grand opening of District Table & Tap at 226 W. Norfolk Ave. is tentatively set for Saturday, Oct. 26. For establishment owner Andrew McCarthy and building owner Dirk Petersen, the event will provide a chance to showcase the hard work and team effort it has taken to renew one of the city’s time-worn structures.

“It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure,” McCarthy said. “It started over a year ago, but to look at it now from what it was when we walked in here the first or second time — there was nothing here.”

Polished pressed-tin ceilings now hang overhead, and walls of exposed brick hem in the newly remodeled interior. An expansive bar wraps around the center wall of the building, serving as a main focal point of the establishment.

“Originally, we only wanted one side,” McCarthy said of the size of the pub. “But Dirk, who owns the building, said tear these walls down, and so all of a sudden, we have a bigger place. It really worked out well.”

Norfolk-based I&P Construction served as the general contractor on the project for the business, as well as the apartments on the upper floor.

Petersen, who retired as general manager of Nucor in 2017, said he had purchased the building because he wanted to do something for the downtown area and saw the place as a structure worth saving.

The building’s long history in Norfolk included use as a dry goods store on the main level and a hotel on the upper level, where it was said rowdy cowboys in the town’s early days would shoot through the floor and toss burning mattresses into the street.

More recently, a portion of the building housed a meeting area for a church group, and the other portion housed a head shop and novelty store. The upper floor of the building, which now has three upscale apartments, had to be completely redone, as well.

“We took about 20 of those skids of trash from the top floor,” Petersen said. “There used to be old hotel rooms, small hotel rooms, and they had to take out walls, and I think we took out either 11 refrigerators or pop machines that were up there.”

When McCarthy first saw the interior of what would eventually become District Table & Tap, one of the main walls featured a graffiti art depiction of the Kool-Aid man with bloodshot eyes. Now, the opposite wall bears a tasteful, black-and-white mural painted by Petersen’s daughter, Tess Kilpatrick-Petersen. The mural reflects highlights and history of the Norfolk community.

McCarthy, a 2004 graduate of Norfolk Catholic High School, has extensive experience in bartending and restaurant management, most of which he gained as an employee and general manager of Big Red Keno in Norfolk.

He said the upper management at Big Red taught him a lot, especially when it came to commanding a large staff, and it wasn’t easy to leave Big Red, but opening an establishment downtown has been his vision for a long time.

When McCarthy connected with Petersen, the two realized they had a shared vision for what role the building would play in downtown Norfolk. They credited help from Mayor Josh Moenning, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and other area economic development entities for pointing out the right directions to help bring that vision into reality.

District Table & Tap will be open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. and feature 23 beers on tap, including about 18 that are brewed in Nebraska, McCarthy said.

The kitchen will be open daily and offer a food menu that will feature a selection of items that will emphasize quality. Customers should anticipate a casual atmosphere, McCarthy said.

“It’s going to be a fun place,” he said. “We’re going to keep it interesting.”

Plans to incorporate live music on occasion also are in the works. The Begats are scheduled to play at the grand opening and Halloween party, which is tentatively set for Saturday, Oct. 26.

McCarthy said he’s excited to finally unveil District Table & Tap to the public, and he’s especially excited to join the other entertainment establishments that recently have opened, are set to open in the coming months or have been part of the downtown scene for a long time, including Lot 279, Divots Downtown Brewery, The 411 Restaurant & Lounge, The Harbor Bar, The Office Bar and 5th Street Tavern.

Petersen added that he’s excited to see the downtown businesses grow together to complement each other, and he hopes the community will support the local entrepreneurial endeavors.

“All we really need is the support from people in Norfolk and the surrounding communities,” he said. “Businesses can’t survive without that support.”

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