Augustine's, the St. Paul neighborhood restaurant that began in 2016 as a Augustine's Bar & Bakery and used its pandemic closure to retool into a French bistro, has closed.
The restaurant was closed for Thanksgiving weekend and never reopened, said chef Derik Moran.
Moran, who spent 10 years as the chef at the Dakota, was recruited by chef-consultant Lenny Russo to oversee the kitchen. Under Russo and Moran's watch, Augustine's reopened in May 2021 with new missions of French cuisine and fair wages.
"Everyone is being paid $20 an hour, it doesn't matter if you're a server, a bartender, a line cook or a dishwasher," Russo told the Star Tribune in May. "Everyone's labor is valued in the same way. Real change in this industry begins with equity in compensation."
Though only open four nights a week, Moran hoped to expand Augustine's into an all-day restaurant modeled on New York City's Balthazar. He also intended to purchase the restaurant, housed in a former laundromat in St. Paul's Union Park neighborhood (1668 Selby Av., St. Paul).
He made an offer in November. But owners Howie Melco, Tony Anderson and Anne Marie rejected it.
"We were closed for Thanksgiving," Moran said. "And then the next week, they just called us all and told us that we weren't going to reopen. That was it."
Marie said Moran's telling of the events around the closure are true, but "it was not as abrupt as one might think."
She declined to elaborate further. "We are not quite ready to comment on the future of Augustine's," Marie said. "We do have something exciting in the works."
Moran is planning his next move. "In this climate, with the pandemic, it might be safer just to work for myself," he said. "I've been cooking for 25 years and I've never had an opportunity to open my own place."
He credits the Augustine's gig, however short, with giving him the boost he needed to climb out of the shadow of the Dakota.
"It gave me a chance to really focus on what I do best and to re-establish who I am," he said. "It put me back on the map in the city."
Look for new projects from Moran in the new year, and an announcement soon from the owners about what will become of Augustine's.