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DeRusha Eats: The Bachelor Farmer, Marvel Bar Shutting Down For Good Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's hosted a president, vice president and first lady. Now one of Minnesota's most awarded and critically acclaimed restaurants has decided to permanently close amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bachelor Farmer, along with its cafe and lower-level Marvel Bar, have been closed for six weeks, and today, owner Eric Dayton notified his nearly 100 employee staff that it would not reopen.

In an open letter, Dayton wrote "the loss fills me with sadness," pointing the "financial weight of our company and the building we call home."

Dayton owns the 17,000 square North Loop building which is home to a fine dining restaurant, a bustling daytime coffee shop and cafe, a nationally-known cocktail lounge Marvel Bar, and an upstairs event space.

"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," he wrote.

Brothers Eric and Andrew Dayton founded the restaurant at the corner of North First Street and Second Avenue North in August of 2011. Their clothing business Askov Finlayson is next to the cafe on First Street.

Looked at skeptically initially, perhaps because of the concept of "new Nordic cuisine," perhaps because it was the Daytons' first restaurant, and perhaps because they are the sons of then-Governor Mark Dayton, The Bachelor Farmer quickly drew large crowds and positive reviews. Opening chef Paul Berglund won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2016 and former General Manager Erin Rolek was named Sommelier of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine in 2017.

WCCO's DeRusha Eats segment profiled Rolek's innovative program of selling wine by the half-bottle, and then offering the rest of the bottle by the glass by listing it on a chalkboard. [link] And it also profiled the new wine director Amy Waller's sparkling wines in a New Year's segment.

"We had the privilege of serving you for almost nine years. We celebrated important milestones right alongside you, hosting countless birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries," Dayton wrote today.

"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," he wrote, but looking at the various parts of business needed to support the cost of a historic, large building in a highly desirable neighborhood, Dayton wrote that he did not see a future.

The company is the landlord of the building they purchased in 2008 for $865,000, according to Hennepin County tax records, but today it's valued at nearly $4 million with a property tax bill of more than $132,500 in 2020.

From a culinary standpoint, The Bachelor Farmer had never been better. In January, Star Tribune critic Rick Nelson gave the restaurant four stars, writing of a soup from chef Jonathan Gans: "Like so much of Gans' seemingly uncomplicated cooking, it's ingenious, artful and delicious."

Marvel Bar got international attention for highlighting non-alcoholic drinks at the start of 2020. But with corporate travel at a standstill, the event business halted for an indeterminate amount of time, and bars at the absolute end of Gov. Tim Walz's dial for places to be reopened during the new coronavirus response, the business was in trouble.

Dayton was clear in his letter, however, that he does not blame Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey nor Walz for closing restaurants and bars.

"I strongly support the decisive steps they've taken to protect our collective wellbeing and this decision is not a result of their actions, which have been commensurate with the crisis we face," he wrote.

Staff members received six weeks of pay while furloughed, and according to Dayton will continue to get full health benefits through May 31. Guests with unused gift cards will have the balance transferred to a credit at Askov Finlayson. Event deposits will be refunded in full.

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