MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A critically acclaimed St. Paul restaurant is the latest to permanently close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The highly-anticipated restaurant that was the fine dining cornerstone of St. Paul’s Keg & Case Market project announced it will permanently close. In Bloom opened in late 2018, featuring a one-of-a-kind 20-foot-long wood fire cooktop surface.

Owners Nick Rancone and chef Thomas Boemer used fire to coax out flavor from venison, fish and steak. But they couldn’t coax enough recurring business to come to a newly developed area in the old Schmidt Brewing building not far from the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport.

In a statement, Rancone and Boemer didn’t blame the shutdown due to COVID-19, rather pointing to a change in the restaurant industry in general. “As the decline in fine dining continues in the restaurant industry as a whole, our vision for In Bloom has run its course. We are grateful to the Keg & Case team, our fellow merchants in the market and the entire West 7th, St. Paul community for the opportunity,” they wrote.

Rancone and Boemer achieved their initial success in Minneapolis, taking over Corner Table Restaurant in south Minneapolis. Customers flocked to their fried chicken concept Revival, leading to an expansion to Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. But In Bloom’s culinary ambitions didn’t ever quite match either the working-class neighborhood of St. Paul, nor the food court-feel of Keg & Case Market.

Boemer earned a James Beard Award semifinalist nod for Best Chef in 2019 for In Bloom, The Star Tribune named it Restaurant of the Year in 2019, and I named it Best Restaurant on the East side of the Metro in 2019 for Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

COVID-19 has devastated the Twin Cities restaurant community, with restaurants closed to inside service for at least three months. Fine dining concepts like The Bachelor Farmer, McCormick & Schmick’s and Mission American have closed, as have longtime staples like Muddy Waters and Pazzaluna.

The team’s Revival Smoked Meats counter service concept remains in Keg & Case, and according to their statement: “We have more exciting announcements to come!”

Jason DeRusha