The Bachelor Farmer, one of the state’s top restaurants, will not reopen.
The North Loop restaurant, its casual daytime cafe and Marvel Bar craft cocktail lounge have been dark since Gov. Tim Walz ordered all Minnesota restaurants closed in mid-March to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“As you know, the future of hospitality is incredibly uncertain and over the past month, we have tried our best to navigate this uncharted territory,” co-owner Eric Dayton said in a statement. “We have explored the option of takeout, most likely evolving into a hybrid model of takeout and reduced-capacity dining room service in the months ahead, but there’s just no way for that level of business to support the financial weight of our company and the building we call home. We were already walking a fine line before COVID-19, and given that no one knows how long the impacts of this pandemic will last, or what the new normal will be, I do not see a viable path forward.”
The closure is a reflection of the industry’s dire situation. In mid-April, the James Beard Foundation, the New York City-based culinary nonprofit, conducted a survey of 1,400 owners of small, independent restaurants. One startling response was that 4 out of 5 restaurant owners don’t expect their businesses to survive the COVID-19 crisis.
Dayton and his brother Andrew Dayton, new to the hospitality business, opened the Bachelor Farmer, Marvel Bar and an adjacent retail enterprise, Askov Finlayson, in 2011. They added the daytime cafe in 2016.
The siblings are the sons of former Gov. Mark Dayton and the great- great-grandsons of Minneapolis department store founder George Draper Dayton. The brothers’ mother, Alida Rockefeller Messinger, is the great-granddaughter of magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr.
“The loss fills me with sadness, but I am also overwhelmed with gratitude,” Dayton wrote. “We celebrated important milestones right alongside you, hosting countless birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. We welcomed a president, a vice president, and a first lady. [Over the years, the restaurant hosted President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.] We helped to create a vibrant neighborhood, and I hope we contributed something of lasting value to the fabric of our community. I’m proud of that legacy and can’t thank you enough for making that possible.”
The operation was a leader on many fronts.
In its first year, the Bachelor Farmer received a four-star review from the Star Tribune, and it was the newspaper’s 2011 Restaurant of the Year.
From the beginning, the wittily named restaurant was a strong farm-to-table advocate (the rooftop vegetable garden was a model for other seasonally minded kitchens), and founding chef Paul Berglund was named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2016.
The stylish, speakeasy-like Marvel Bar, located in the building’s basement, garnered national attention while it advanced the local craft cocktail culture. Both Marvel Bar and the restaurant’s meticulous wine program drew James Beard semifinalist nods.
In January, the restaurant, under the leadership of chef Jonathan Gans, received its second four-star rating from the Star Tribune.
Reviving a forlorn, century-old building (the conversion was led by James Dayton Design) was a major boost for the neighborhood and played a key role in transforming the North Loop into the Twin Cities’ hottest dining-out district.
The restaurant’s staff was paid through six weeks of furlough and will continue to receive health benefits through May 31. Customers holding Bachelor Farmer gift cards can redeem them at Askov Finlayson, which remains open.
“There is no easy way to do this, but we’re committed to doing it right,” wrote Dayton.
In the statement, Dayton also thanked Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Walz “for their steady leadership through this crisis,” he wrote. “I strongly support the decisive steps they’ve taken to protect our collective well-being and this decision is not a result of their actions, which have been commensurate with the crisis we face.”
He ended his announcement with a message to the Minneapolis restaurant community.
“It has been an honor to be in your company and I believe in your ability to overcome these unprecedented challenges,” Dayton wrote. “Hospitality will be more important than ever as we heal from the shared trauma of this experience and I know you will continue to raise the bar for many years to come.”
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib