Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park shut down unexpectedly Wednesday, leaving about 80 people out of jobs and at least one couple without a place for a wedding reception.
The Phoenix-based corporation that owns the restaurant in the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park has shut down at least half a dozen other restaurants in the chain around the country over the last year. As of May 15, the Minnesota restaurant was listed on the state’s tax delinquency list. And under state law, it couldn’t purchase liquor, beer or wine as long as it remained on that list.
“We completely ran out of beer last week,” said former manager Greg Tamble.
Weeks earlier, Tamble said corporate employees acknowledged the company wasn’t paying its liquor tax “at the moment” but assured him the business wasn’t going to close. Tamble, who worked for the company for about 1 ½ years, said Boomtown Entertainment had 16 to 17 restaurants in the chain about six months ago.
Corporate officials declined to be interviewed but released a written statement Thursday that said: “The Boomtown Entertainment team is currently in the process of looking for space in the downtown area. We are also in the process of finding out from the state what is owed and it will all be satisfied. All employees will be paid for their time.”
Tamble and former manager Lindsay Schullo both said they doubt the company will relocate in Minneapolis.
The abrupt closing has left Alyssa Kesterton and Jason Brousseau in a bind because their July 10 wedding reception was supposed to be at Toby Keith’s. Friends and family sent texts to the couple Thursday morning alerting them that it was closed.
“We went to the restaurant to … make sure it wasn’t just a big rumor. But there was a sign on the door that said it was closed for maintenance.”
A security guard reluctantly told her she might want to find a new reception venue.
“We just hung our heads and walked away,” Kesterton said. “I’m trying not to get stressed over just a wedding.”
But Brousseau is angry at the inconvenience. “Granted, we’re not doing a big ol’ wedding, but that’s what’s in our budget and that’s what we can do. If this happened two months ago, no big deal.”
Now the couple, hoping to get their $100 deposit back, is scrambling to find another reception hall for their 140 guests.
And employees who learned at 7 p.m. Wednesday that the restaurant was closing are looking for jobs.
“It’s really tough,” former manager Schullo said. “I have kids to support. Yeah, you hear people who have to go through it and then you end up having to deal with it yourself.”
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788