Reusse: NHL lockout leaves void for St. Paul businesses, too

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2012 - 7:23 AM

The Wild should have opened its season Saturday, but with the NHL in a freeze, West 7th Street was relatively quiet -- Cossetta's aside.

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Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub owner Tom Reid.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Gentlemen named Diego and Filippo were working long Saturday hours to transform a sizable space into a first-of-its-kind Italian pastry shop in St. Paul. Thus, they were not sharing in the gloom that could be found elsewhere on West 7th Street that there would be no season opener on this night for the Minnesota Wild, as noted on the NHL's original schedule.

Dave Cossetta has undertaken an enormous expansion of his eatery, including a "pasticerria" that was purchased whole from Italy and shipped over in pieces. Diego and Filippo came along to put those pieces and machines together and guarantee the authenticity of the pastry shop.

The new area housing the famed Cossetta buffet line opened this weekend, and the line was so long at 3 p.m. that a couple of managers had to be reminded that the Wild's opener with the Colorado Avalanche had been canceled by the owners' lockout of the players.

That was not the case across the street, where the Eagle Street Grille, Burger Moe's and Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub are three of the bar/restaurants that came into existence because of the presence of the Wild and Xcel Energy Center at the intersection of West 7th and Kellogg Boulevard.

Here's the compulsory notation that Reid was a long-time North Star and serves as the radio analyst for the Wild. On Saturday, he was having a late lunch with Wild original Wes Walz and Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr.

"We took over the space in 1999 and opened the day before the Wild's first exhibition in 2000," Reid said. "This is our second lockout. I think we're a little better situated than we were during the first one in 2004-05.

"We're still the hockey bar in St. Paul, but the Wild are scheduled for 45 games a year. Forty-five days out of 365 ... you figure it out. After the last lockout, we went to work upgrading our product: better food, craft beers.

"The customers noticed. Business is much better on non-hockey days."

That said, Reid's would have been jammed for several hours starting at midafternoon on a hockey Saturday, with three or four bartenders and a half-dozen servers. Instead, there was one bartender and one server scheduled for Saturday night.

Burger Moe's is a few yards down the street from Reid's. Owner Moe Sharif tried putting several restaurants in the space before settling on a burger, beer and spirit joint that is in its third year of business.

There were a fair number of folks wolfing burgers on Saturday afternoon. "We have good food and lots of beers, and we also have parking," manager Tony DeGross said. "I think that helps us a lot with the parking crunch on West 7th."

Again, the staffing situation at Burger Moe's was far different than if this had been opening night: two bartenders rather than seven, three servers rather than 10.

There's no place more reliant than the Eagle Street Grille on events at Xcel Energy Center. It is located directly across from the arena's West 7th entrance.

There was a smattering of customers -- several wearing maroon-and-gold clothing and sad faces -- in the main level of the bar at 3 p.m. Owner Joe Kasel was asked when the Wild crowd would arrive for a Saturday game.

"Right now," he said. "We'd be full easy. And we'd have two bartenders in here, three in the next room, one downstairs and nine servers. Instead, we'll have one bartender and two servers tonight.

Kasel shook his head. "Words can't explain the excitement when the Wild signed [Zach] Parise and [Ryan] Suter," he said. "For weeks, anyone who came in here, that's what they wanted to talk about ... how they couldn't wait for the hockey season.

"Now this."

Kasel estimated that 40 percent of his gross is based on Wild crowds -- then refigured in his head and kicked it up to 50 percent.

Mark and Joan Thompson from Eagan were having a beer at Tom Reid's. Both were wearing Wild gear.

"I think there should be a law against owners and players shutting down a sport, because they aren't the ones who can't pay their bills," Mark said. "It's the people working in the arena, the people working up and down West 7th, that get hurt the most."

Except for Diego and Filippo -- still working hell-bent for world-class cannolis as the Saturday afternoon slipped away quietly.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

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