At St. Paul’s Keg and Case: Five Watt Coffee out, Starcade staying

31 May 2024

Five Watt Coffee, one of few remaining tenants at St. Paul’s embattled Keg and Case market, is leaving the W. Seventh Street food hall this weekend, but retro arcade Starcade plans to stick around for the foreseeable future, the businesses’ respective owners confirmed this week.

The last day for the cafe, which has three other locations in Minneapolis, will be Sunday, owner Lee Carter confirmed.

Five Watt Coffee’s location at the Keg and Case food hall, shown after hours May 31, 2024, is set to close June 2. (Jared Kaufman / Pioneer Press)

“Many variables were involved with this, including a potential sale of the building, as well as the widespread community confusion on whether or not the market was actually open anymore,” he said in an email.

Other recent departures from the more than 22,000 square-foot food hall include restaurants Pimento Jamaican Kitchen and O’Cheeze and soap company Soapy Toads. Anchor tenant Clutch Brewing Co. closed up shop at the end of 2023, a significant blow to the market.

Keg and Case and the neighboring Schmidt Brewery Rathskeller building were acquired and revitalized in the late 2010s by developer Craig Cohen, and both projects’ finances have fairly publicly collapsed over the past year.

In October 2023, lender MidWestOne Bank took over the deed to the Keg and Case building in a partial debt settlement with Cohen. The Rathskeller building, previously sold in a foreclosure auction last year, was bought by a Minneapolis investment group in May. Cohen filed for personal bankruptcy protection in April.

Despite the uncertainty, Starcade — which just took over a sizable footprint in the building last summer — is staying put for now, co-owner Paul Saarinen said, and even continuing to grow.

The arcade is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. They also serve pizza and nachos between noon and 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Earlier in the foreclosure process, MidWestOne had told Starcade they’d need to vacate, but the bank reversed course a few weeks ago, Saarinen said.

“We are here for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We had kind of jumped the gun, not expecting that the situation would change so quickly, but it did.”

Meanwhile, the arcade is working to build out a greater selection of fighting games, Japanese-style rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and competitive esports to engage with niche enthusiast communities, Saarinen said.

The arcade’s pinball wing, called Bad Penny, also hosts weekly tournaments for all skill levels at 7 p.m. Fridays, and women’s tournaments at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of the month.

“We really enjoy the community and we’ll stay as long as we’re welcome,” he said. “It would be nice to be able to stay there and grow with the community, and grow what we’re doing there.”

Following Five Watt’s departure, apart from Starcade, the only remaining business operating at Keg and Case is Sana Farms, a CBD and THC product company that also sells products in Minneapolis and Taylors Falls.

Rathskeller changes

Nearby at the Rathskeller building, changes are underway as well.

The Rathskeller at the Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (Chris Polydoroff / Pioneer Press)

Rok Music Lounge and Bar, a venue that was formerly a cheffy Nordic/Japanese spot and briefly a taco bar, is still open for now, but owner Travis Wycislak said he’ll have a clearer picture of the business’ future in a few weeks.

Mancini’s, which had once signed on to use the ornate underground room for private events, has not been affiliated with the space since December 2023.

The West 7th/Fort Road Federation, a neighborhood council, lists the building online as the site of its offices but did not reply to a clarification request Friday afternoon.

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