Dan O’Gara, the owner of the legendary O’Gara’s Bar & Grill, announced Monday the iconic establishment won’t be reopening and blamed the decision to close down on the city’s business regulations.
O’Gara’s sits at the corner of Snelling and Selby, an intersection it has called home for 77 years. The owners planned to reopen in 2020 after completing a remodel and downsizing, but said that doing so would be “financially untenable.”
“It is with sadness that we share the news that we have decided not to reopen the original location,” Dan O’Gara said at a Monday press conference hosted at the company’s State Fair location. “This decision was made after considerable reflection and analysis. My wife Kris and I understand how disappointing this will be to our long-standing patrons and staff.”
O’Gara blamed the closure on the “changing regulatory environment and increased competition from taprooms.” He said St. Paul’s new $15 minimum wage ordinance, which doesn’t contain an adjustment for tipped employees, combined with rising state and city taxes and fees, and sick time requirements have made the business unsustainable.
“We could have sustained it for five or six years, but it would have been too difficult to succeed in the long term,” O’Gara said. “I don’t know of any small, independent local businesses that could succeed in this environment.”
O’Gara specifically pointed to the state’s three-tier liquor system as a problem for his business, saying it favors taprooms since they can sell what they produce on-site with no markups.
“I think over the next three to five years it’s going to be very difficult for a single operator to succeed,” he added.
Assistant General Manager Laura Henricksen told reporters that St. Paul is losing its “small-town feel,” pointing to the recent closures of businesses like Bibelot, Creative Kidstuff, and Wild Onion.
Assistant General Manager Laura Henricksen says it’s a tough time for small businesses nationally and locally too — Bibelot, Wild Onion, Creative KidStuff, and now O’Gara’s — and city could do more to help, such as tip credits. “I haven’t seen the support the last few years.” pic.twitter.com/eocUB5hRRt
— Frederick Melo, Reporter (@FrederickMelo) November 4, 2019
O’Gara’s was sold to developer Ryan Companies in 2018 for $4.5 million. The family originally planned to lease a smaller location on the ground floor of the new apartment building and office spaces being constructed.
“We kept pushing and pushing to find a way. But in the end, we decided it wasn’t going to work and we just have to move on,” said Kris O’Gara. “It’s disappointing—for everybody.”
O’Gara’s will continue to operate its State Fair location and cater events.
“We want to thank everyone for the loyalty and joy that the neighborhood has shown us throughout the years,” Dan O’Gara concluded his remarks.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “O’Gara’s Bar and Grill” by O’Gara’s Bar and Grill.