ST. PAUL, Minn. - Bonnie’s Café survived light rail construction and the death of its doting owner, but now the fixture on University Avenue has reached the end of the road.
Bonnie’s co-owner, Becky Moosbrugger, says she’s being forced to close Bonnie’s, possibly as soon as Tuesday.
“It’s a mourning process,” says Moosbrugger. “I was not ready.”
Moosbrugger’s mother, Bonnie Roell, opened the café in 1978, choosing old fashioned stools and booths painted and upholstered in green, Roell’s favorite color.
Roell died of pancreatic cancer in 2013. Moosbrugger’s sister ran the café before she took over.
“I wasn't going to change it, because it hasn't been changed in 40 years, so why change what wasn't broke?” Moosbrugger says.
She had planned to eventually turn the café over to her son and his wife.
But Moosbrugger learned last month that the building owner has signed a new lease with the Dubliner Pub, which is separated by a wall from Bonnie’s.
“I wasn’t brought into any communication or offer, negotiations, I was just told it was a done deal,” Moosbrugger says.
Reached by phone, Cynthia Launer, a member of the family that owns the building, would not discuss the reason Bonnie’s lease was terminated.
“It’s just a decision we made,” said Launer, who pointed out the Dubliner is also “a small family business.”
Dubliner owner Tom Scanlon says he plans to open a restaurant of his own in the Bonnie’s Café space, but distanced himself from the situation.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Scanlon said, insisting the building owner approached him about taking over the space.
Moosbrugger says she’d been seeking a long-term lease, but had been renting month-to-month since last spring at the building owner’s request.
“I didn't know until it was over, and at that point I had no option,” she said.
As of Monday evening, Moosbrugger couldn’t say if she’d be open for business past Tuesday. She said attorneys for both parties are trying to iron out the transfer of the building.
Like many University Avenue businesses, Bonnie’s struggled through construction of the Green Line light rail system.
Moosbrugger’s mother gained media attention for sending out her waitresses to offer cookies to people on the street to try to lure back business.
“I promised her that her legacy would continue,” Moosbrugger said from the counter at Bonnie’s. “And I feel like I’ve let her down.”