Joe Senser's Restaurant and Sports Theater said Monday it has closed its Eagan location, surprising the local community.

"I'm as shocked as anybody else," said Joel Lehman, the property's owner. Lehman drove to the restaurant on Eagandale Place Monday, only to see closed signs on the door.

Lehman said the restaurant's rent lasted until Monday. He declined to discuss the restaurant's financial performance or rent payments.

Mike Hrudka, director of operations for Joe Senser's, said the bar closed due to the tough economy. He also cited the restaurant's location, which requires many turns to get into its parking lot.

Hrudka did not respond to questions about the number of employees at the eatery, but said the company will work to transfer as many workers as possible to Senser's restaurants in Bloomington, Roseville and Plymouth.

Dick Grones, founder of Cambridge Commercial Realty, said the other restaurants are more likely to stay open because they are in better locations. Eagan has also been a trouble spot for eateries in recent years because Northwest Airlines lost its Eagan headquarters when Delta Air Lines bought NWA in 2008.

The closed sign on Senser's Eagan location said gift cards and coupons could be used at the other locations.

"I feel badly to hear that they have closed down because the staff had been working hard to be active in the community," said Ruthe Batulis, president of the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We're sensitive about the staff members there. Hopefully they will find jobs elsewhere."

Batulis said Senser's participated in Eagan's 150th anniversary celebration, where they helped collect canned goods for an ambitious food drive.

Senser, a former Minnesota Vikings football player, opened the Eagan restaurant in 1998. Former and current sports players have been spotted at Senser's various bars.

The closure comes as Senser's wife, Amy Senser, faces a felony hit-and-run charge in the Aug. 23 death of a Minneapolis chef. Amy Senser admitted to striking Anousone Phanthavong with her vehicle as he filled his car with gas on the Interstate 94 ramp at Riverside Avenue just east of downtown Minneapolis. Phanthavong was a popular chef at True Thai restaurant.

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712