The rash of restaurant closing continues. This time, it’s two St. Paul spots: Ward 6, the pioneering gastropub on St. Paul’s Payne Avenue, and Fern's Bar & Grill, a Cathedral Hill staple for more than a quarter-century.
First, Ward 6.
“The sad fact is Ward 6 has had a difficult time financially for the past couple of years,” reads the message on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Life in the restaurant biz is hard, and for a small restaurant that tries to do things the right way (as we see it), the margins (and margin of error) are very, very small. There is only so long a restaurant can go on without making money, and we have come to the end of that road.”
The restaurant, which set an example as a neighborhood gathering spot, will end its 5 1/2-year run on June 3.
W6 began when co-owners Bob Parker and Eric Foster saw the fixer-upper potential in what had been a late 19th-century saloon. (By the early 20th century, the building had morphed into a taproom for the nearby Hamm’s Brewery; Hamm’s is responsible for the restaurant’s gorgeous oak-mahogany bar.)
They named their place Ward 6 (a nod to the location, within the sixth of the city’s seven political districts) and proved to a new generation of culinary entrepreneurs — and diners — that a troubled commercial thoroughfare deserved a second chance. And that affordable, approachable gastropubs were a wave of the future, especially those where the kitchen’s approach to beer-friendly food was made with integrity.
Since the restaurant’s debut in December 2012, Payne has witnessed a welcome renaissance, thanks to the addition of Tongue in Cheek, Brunson’s Pub, Cook St. Paul, Caydence Records & Coffee, the just-opened Cookie Cart and others.
For those who want to point to political reasons for the closure – the rise in the minimum wage, for example — think again. The restaurant’s ownership slaps that notion down on Facebook, repeatedly.
“I wonder how the pending $15 an hour issue played into this decision?” asked one person. “Not one bit,” was the restaurant’s reply.
That Facebook announcement ended with a poignant and instructive message for Twin Cities diners.
“We’re sorry we couldn’t keep this going forever,” it said. “And please, support your favorite local restaurants — chances are, they’re closer to this kind of situation than you might think.”
Fern's — which spent most of its nearly 27 years as Fabulous Fern's — also struggled in recent years.
In 2017, owner Dan Dahlin filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
Hurry in to say goodbye. The restaurant, a Selby Avenue gathering spot that focuses on all-American food and drink, will permanently close on May 29.
(Photo by Tom Wallace/Star Tribune)