Tuesday, May 15, 2007

End of an era in St. Cloud 

St. Cloudians complain bitterly about the closing of family-run restaurants and the proliferation of chain restaurants -- one guy referred to the selection as Maple Grove West. One of its longest-running establishments, O'Haras, closed its doors yesterday after a long struggle to stay financially viable.

At one time in the 1950s 33rd and 3rd was the edge of this city. My home, about a mile almost due north, was the air strip outside of town. The establishment was absorbed into the city as it expanded, but O'Haras for years was the place locals went to for a beer and a sandwich, at lunch or dinner. Some reporting on this blog came from conversations in its downstairs bar. (Here's the place's website that includes its history, though I expect that site to be down soon.)

Its financial difficulties were no secret around town, and its closure was not unexpected, though the purchase of the property by Premier Real Estate this spring had given some hope that the owner might make it to where he no longer had to service a mortgage on the place that was too large. Competition from the chains -- not least of which from Granite City Food and Brewery. (In that case, St. Cloud's establishment came before those in the Cities.) Beer fans here argue over which place had better brew. While the consistency of GCFB is undeniable because of their unique process, there were small-crafted beers at O'Haras that had no equal in town. I will miss the Dubbel Trouble, the German Pilsner, and the Doppel Bock particularly.

While O'Haras appears to be no more, my bet is someone will realize the market can use another small-crafted brewery with local appeal to help slow the advance of Minneapolis exurbia.