ST. CLOUD, Minn — Editor's note: The video above first aired on Feb. 29, 2020.
The owner of an iconic St. Cloud bar will serve a sentence of nearly six years in federal prison after admitting to burning the business down in February of 2020.
Andrew Charles Welsh was sentenced to 71 months behind bars, followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to a single count of arson that destroyed the Press Bar.
The 43-year-old Welsh was arrested in December 2020 on a federal grand jury indictment alleging arson, use of fire to commit a federal felony and wire fraud, following the total destruction of his business. Investigators say Welsh used gasoline to start a fire in his basement office early the morning of Feb. 17 and the flames quickly tore through the old building, leaving it a total loss. Adjoining businesses were also damaged.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota said that about a week after the fire, Welsh submitted an insurance claim for over $1.4 million in damages as a result of the fire. Prosecutors alleged that Welsh fraudulently claimed the "said loss did not originate by any act, design or procurement on the part of your insured."
A number of employees told investigators that business at the Press was declining to the point that the bar had stopped selling tap beer and began reducing staff.
Court documents in a separate case also suggest Welsh was struggling financially. A contractor known as Elite Concrete Construction filed a civil complaint in Benton County Court alleging Breach of Contract, and seeking a lien on a property owned by Welsh due to an unpaid bill of $53,721.
In May of 2022, Welsh entered a guilty plea after striking a deal with prosecutors.
The Press Bar and Parlor was a mainstay of downtown St. Cloud for decades, a blue-collar spot that catered to town residents and college students alike.
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