The Wabasha Street Caves, an event center built within sandstone caves in St. Paul, will close permanently at the end of November, the owners have announced, due to the loss of business during the state pandemic shutdown.
The 12,000-square-foot venue has been closed to the public since March, said Donna Bremer, who with her husband, Stephen, owns and operates the caves.
"This has taken the wind out of our sails," she said. "We've told the employees it's time for unemployment."
The facility has taken in no revenue during the shutdown, Bremer said.
"We're actually losing," she said. "We still have taxes due, still have to pay the electric bill and the phone bill."
The three-cave complex is built inside mines that were carved out of sandstone in the 1840s. It has a storied history; in the 1920s it housed a speakeasy that, according to legend, was frequented by famous gangsters.
The Bremers, both in their 70s, bought the place in 1994. They remodeled it and have hosted tours, dances, weddings and other gatherings.
"We're an attraction and we're not allowed to open. That would be bad enough, but then to have everybody cancel their events and want all their money back — and you can't blame them."
A calendar on the facility's website shows all events canceled until mid-June. Starting June 11, the calendar shows scheduled cave tours, gangster tours and swing nights several days a week. But Bremer said they can't be sure they'll be allowed to hold those events.
"We're hoping if the governor starts allowing a little more by mid-June ... we could start doing small ones," she said.
For example, they might try to do some outdoor walking tours, Bremer said. But she expects groups would be limited to 10 to 15 people, as opposed to the 40 they're used to.
"It takes an effort to get things going again; we've done it and we're done," she said. "Most attractions — the resorts, Valleyfair, all of them — to be shut down in your prime season, that really hurts. It hurts the pocketbook, it hurts all the way around."
Bremer feels bad for the state's finances, too, she said. "When I did my sales tax last month, it was zero."