Reporting Bill Hudson
EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) – An empty parking lot greeted lunchtime customers at Joe Senser’s Sports Grill and Bar in Eagan on Monday.
Located just off Interstate 35E and Lone Oak Road, the popular sports restaurant has been an Eagan fixture for nearly a decade. But instead of having a lunch with a friend, Mike Koegel drove up, glanced at the front door and drove away.
“A sign said, ‘Closed,’ just flat-out closed,” he said. “I knew it must be recent because I looked through the window and saw a City Pages from last Friday.”
In fact, the restaurant closed so recently that the restaurant’s 50 or so full-and part-time employees were shocked by the sudden closing. Those driving into the parking lot watched as movers loaded vans with merchandise and inventory. Beverage distributors loaded up kegs and beverage dispensers, and movers stacked framed sports memorabilia outside the back door.
A company spokesman said the Eagan closure was a “business decision.”
Senser’s director of operations, Mike Hrudka, said the closing has nothing to do with Amy Senser’s legal troubles. Senser’s wife is charged in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed Minneapolis chef Anousone Phanthavong along Interstate 94 and Riverside last summer.
Hrudka also said that the three remaining Senser’s Sports Grill and Bar locations (Plymouth, Bloomington and Rosedale) will remain open and are unaffected by Monday’s decision.
Carlson School of Management’s David Hopkins said, “An underperforming location is a drain on cash flow.”
The managing director of the school’s Carlson Brand Enterprise points out that thin margins in the restaurant business leave no room for error, and are made all the worse in a down economy.
“It makes perfect sense,” Hopkins said. “Like any business, you try to eliminate areas that are losing money or not seeing growth. So it makes perfect sense, especially in this market where consumers are very cautious in their spending.”
And in an industry where sports bars are plentiful, customers have a wide menu of choices. The sudden and unexpected closing means that customer Matt Foote will make lunch choice number two.
“Very shocking,” Foote said. “Joe Senser is a well known name in the area. So, yes, it’s a little shocking.”