After investing nearly $500,000 to transform the Como Lakeside Pavilion from a coffee shop into a full-service restaurant, and three years cultivating a Louisiana-themed menu complete with gumbo and beignets, Jon Oulman spent Como Dockside’s last day of service Wednesday saying goodbye to his staff, his customers and the neighborhood.
On Monday, St. Paul city staff will hold a community open house at the pavilion to begin shaping what the grand space along the lake will become next. The open house will begin at 6 p.m. Area residents who cannot attend the open house are invited to submit comments to ParksCustomerService@ci.stpaul.mn.us.
Oulman and his partners, who also own downtown St. Paul’s Amsterdam Bar and Hall and the 331 Club in Minneapolis, revamped the kitchen, brought a full-service bar into the space and offered live music nearly every night in the summer. They even replaced the pavilion’s dock and provided summer concessions. But Como Dockside’s early success — it brought in more than $1 million in its first four months of business — couldn’t overcome the challenges of staffing a full lakeside restaurant over three painfully slow winters.
“We bled money between December and March,” Oulman said. They announced two weeks ago that Dockside was closing.
Trying to make enough money in the spring and summer to support the wide variety of public services required wound up being just too much, Oulman said Wednesday, adding that “we were naive” to the challenges.
St. Paul officials hope to have a new management partner in place starting in spring 2018. The goal of the open house is “to give the community an opportunity to have their voices heard by staff,” said Brad Meyer, a spokesman for St. Paul Parks and Recreation. A request for proposals could go out in a couple weeks.