O’Gara’s is closing in St. Paul, cites bad environment for business

Assistant General Manager Laura Henrickson said it has been tough for businesses in the area, and O’Gara’s isn’t the only small business to close up shop.


O’Gara’s bar in St. Paul on Selby and Snelling is closing for good. Last year O’Gara’s had closed temporarily, as they renovated and sold some of the building to Ryan Companies in an effort to trim costs and keep the establishment going. “We kept pushing and pushing to find a way. But in the end, we decided it wasn’t going to work and we just have to move on,” said owner Kris O’Gara.  

That’s a loss for classic Minnesota. The bar and restaurant has been run by the O’Gara family since it opened in 1941. And Charles Schulz lived upstairs in an apartment as a boy, while his father worked downstairs in a barber shop, charging 35 cents for a haircut. On a wall in O’Gara’s, a mural Schulz made showed Snoopy sitting in a barber chair, ready for a trim. “In memory of the old days,” Schulz wrote below the mural.

Dan O’Gara, Kris O’Gara’s husband, blamed state and city taxes and fees, St. Paul’s new paid sick leave rules, and St. Paul’s $15 minimum wage requirement that doesn’t account for tips. He also said that the competitiveness of taprooms was an issue. Here, O’Gara explained that because a taproom (brewery or distillery) sells what they make, they receive a higher margin. Yet normal bars must first purchase the beer or alcohol before reselling, which results in a smaller margin (though also probably smaller fixed and operating costs as a percent of revenue).

But O’Gara said St. Paul’s new rules, that pushed up the cost of labor, deserved the biggest blame. O’Gara said he looked ahead and thought he could keep the business going only another five or six years, but that would be it.

Assistant General Manager Laura Henrickson said it has been tough for businesses in the area, and O’Gara’s isn’t the only small business to close up shop. “I haven’t seen the support [of city politicians] the last few years,” she said. Henrickson also said she enjoyed working for the O’Gara’s because they were “the most compassionate people,” and welcomed ideas and input from staff.

In a statement, Democrat St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter expressed sadness that O’Gara’s was closing, but said nothing about the business climate in St. Paul that Dan O’Gara had criticized.

The building and land is being sold to Ryan Companies for $4.5 million. Leftists on Twitter sneered that the family was getting off fine, were Republicans, and were making a “disingenuous argument while making millions on a real estate deal.” 

The lefties have obviously never ran a business, and have no business-sense whatsoever. How much did O’Gara’s plug into the building in the first place? What were their operating costs, and what were their costs even when the building was closed? How much in blood, sweat, and tears did the family expend building and running the business over nearly eight decades? And then there’s the 50 O’Gara’s employees who just lost a job because of the closing.

It consistently amazes this writer how people in government fail to think through the consequences of their actions—and it’s amazing how many bystanders, with no skin in the game, can be so rude and stupid. 


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Willis Krumholz

Willis L. Krumholz is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.