Octo Fishbar, the Lowertown St. Paul seafood restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee, has closed.
The restaurant served its last meal on Saturday.
“We closed the restaurant at this time and have no plans to reopen,” said Loren Zinter, managing partner. “The impacts surrounding COVID proved to be just too much.”
Zinter said the safety of staff and guests was a primary factor in the decision to close, as well as the financial toll of limited seating capacity.
“Although we’re obviously sad to see it go, we feel at this time it was the only decision to make,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of Octo,” he added. “I think we absolutely did the things we set out to do, and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Octo Fishbar opened in late 2017, a home base for McKee two years after he closed the fine dining legend La Belle Vie.
The restaurant took over the two-story space that had formerly housed Heartland Restaurant, and served as the anchor of the Market House Collaborative, a small-scale food hall where customers could select fish, meat and mushrooms for the Octo chefs to prepare.
The Star Tribune gave Octo Fishbar 3 1/2 stars, praising the kitchen’s “disciplined, highly skilled cooking,” and its “improvisational nature and sense of adventure.”
After closing its dining room mid-March, Octo returned with curbside pickup of po’boys and seafood boils, and indoor dining reopened in June.
“We had a really positive response from our regulars and people who wanted to support us and see us succeed but, financially, it didn’t add up,” Zinter said.
Zinter would not comment on the future of the space, in the vast atrium of the Market House building.
This is St. Paul’s second pandemic-related loss of a food-hall anchor restaurant; In Bloom, in St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market, closed earlier this month.
Other recent, high-profile closings include José Alarcon’s northeast Minneapolis Mexican restaurant Popol Vuh, Gavin Kaysen’s Bellecour in Wayzata and the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis’s North Loop. They are among the almost three dozen Twin Cities restaurants to close since a March 16 order from Gov. Tim Walz halted dine-in service statewide to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Patios were allowed to reopen June 1, and indoor dining resumed June 10 at 50% capacity.
It’s a “devastating” time for restaurants, Zinter said. “It’s really hard for Tim or I to feel sorry for ourselves when so many others going through the same thing.”