Forepaugh’s, the St. Paul restaurant inside a grand 19th-Century mansion, has closed.
The announcement was posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Forepaugh’s Restaurant. Thanks for 11 great years!!!!”
Known for its antique setting and its resident ghost, the restaurant named after the mansion’s original owner has been operating at 276 Exchange St. S. since 1976.
In 2007, Bruce Taher, head of the food service company Taher, took over and invested $2 million to renovate and revamp the restaurant into a white-tablecloth establishment to match the high-end curb appeal.
“It’s just been a really fun ride and wonderful place that made a lot of memories for a lot of people,” Taher said. “But the last number of years, the revenues keep shrinking every year. It’s the story of fine dining as a whole around the country. Things are getting more casual.”
Taher says he wanted the restaurant to go out on a high note rather than downgrade its offerings. “We don’t want to screw around with the food or service,” he said.
Forepaugh’s executive chef, Kyle Bell, died suddently last month after battling the flu, a tragedy that has lingered over the restaurant.
“That really has taken the wind out of our sail,” Taher said. “He was very special, not just to myself, but to everybody. At some point you go, ‘I just don’t have the energy to move forward, so maybe it’s a good time to just stop.’”
Staff have been offered jobs at Taher’s other food businesses, including corporate cafeterias and retail food service. “That makes it easier, knowing the impact on people who worked so hard will not be as big as it could have been,” he said.
Taher still owns the building and is unsure what the mansion’s next iteration will be. It’s furnished with antiques – some of them belonged to the Forepaugh family in the late 1800s. “We’ll have to figure out what to do with that,” Taher said.
He expects the closing will be bittersweet for the countless guests who celebrated a wedding, a birthday or a proposal there. “You see those stories,” he said. Forepaugh’s is “a big part of St. Paul, and a big part of our culture up here in snow country.”
As for the ghost, Molly, Taher isn’t sure how she’ll take the news.
“I don’t know if the ghost is going to be angry or have peace of mind,” he said. “I’d be happy that it’s quiet there for a little while.”