The glitzy art deco chandeliers at the Forum went dark over the weekend, quietly ending a not-quite yearlong renaissance of the historic downtown Minneapolis space.
Armchair quarterbacks and hindsight-ers will probably have theories aplenty explaining why Jim and Stefanie Ringo's well-intended dream to revive the fizzy mint green-and-mirrors landmark went bust. Goodness knows I heard plenty of them over the course of the restaurant's short life.
Instead, I'm going to go all Minnesota Nice, focus on the positive and thank the Ringos for trying. The former Forum Cafeteria had been collecting cobwebs for nearly five years -- one of downtown's great tragedies, if you ask me -- when Jim Ringo, a food industry executive looking for a career change, took a tour and fell head-over-heels in love with the space.
Frankly, who wouldn't? There's no other interior like it in the state, and probably the nation. "It took my breath away," he told me last year.
The Ringos went to great pains to spiff up the joint to its full, unadulterated glory, so much so that the couple received a much-deserved award from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission for their efforts.
There's probably some schadenfreude going on this week among the Ringos' more seasoned competitors. I suppose that's natural. The Ringos were hospitality industry novices, and they launched not one but two major restaurants within a few weeks of each other (their Ringo in St. Louis Park sputtered to a close after eight months, the space now taken over by Sopranos Italian Kitchen), a feat that, say, the Parasoles and D'Amicos of the world, with their far deeper benches, probably know better than to attempt.
Still, I admire and applaud the Ringos' chutzpah. The Twin Cities' restaurant scene could use more audacity, not less.
But along with being bummed for the hard-working folks who are now out of a job, I'm also back to worrying over the fate of the splendiferousness that is the Forum. That's because names don't tend to last long on the Forum's lease.
After the original Forum Cafeteria closed (1930-75), the enormous room ran through a string of tenants (Scottie's, the Paramount Cafe, Mick's) until 1996, when Goodfellow's settled in for a nine-year stretch.
With this latest failure, will potential restaurateurs look at the Forum as jinxed?
Let's hope not. City Center isn't exactly a troubled address. One of Minnesota's top-grossing restaurants, Fogo de Chao, is a tenant, and a major New York City operator, Rosa Mexicano, is opening its first Midwest outlet this summer in a prime chunk of the complex's real estate. Target Field is two blocks away, and the Forum is next to one major hotel and across the street from another.
Jeez, I sound like a leasing agent for Brookfield, the Forum's landlord. I'm just hoping that this priceless asset won't remain out of the public's eyes for another five years.