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Food & Drink

Black Sheep St. Paul Closes, Citing COVID, Shortages, and *Sigh* Bike Lanes

C'monnnnnn.

Em Cassel

I really try not to be a Bike Person, you guys. I love my bicycle and ride it often, but I tend to abstain from participating in Bike Discourse, and mock the “bike lanes are destroying this city” people only when they really deserve it.

…We have here today an example of that.

Over the weekend, Black Sheep Pizza announced that it would close its downtown St. Paul location after 11 years—not a bad run by any stretch.

In a poem titled “Covid, bike lanes and shortages, oh my!” the local coal-fired pizza says farewell:

11 years it’s been
So much has happened since way back when

Great times had by all
Customers, staff and especially Colleen and Jordan had a ball

The time has come to close our St. Paul door.
We loved every minute and our hearts are sore

Great pizza and peeps are just a short drive away
We’ll keep the coal burning all night and day
Head over to the North Loop or Eat Street today

We are so sad but it’s not goodbye
Please visit us in Minneapolis
For some great Black Sheep Pizza pie

As the Pioneer Press notes, Black Sheep shares its building with Tin Whiskers Brewing, which also announced it will soon close. (The PiPress incorrectly reports that Tin Whiskers closed earlier this year; it announced the closure in March but will remain open until the end of May.)

So either those bike lanes really are doing a ton of damage, or, more likely, the ongoing pandemic, combined with the slow trickle of workers returning to downtown St. Paul, have proven too much for these nearby businesses to bear. St. Paul’s Stacked Deck Brewing, just blocks from Black Sheep/Tin Whiskers, also closed recently.

Notably, Tin Whiskers leadership did not cite bike lanes among the reasons for their closure in speaking with Axios earlier this year, though insurmountable challenges included:

  • COVID restrictions and virus concerns cutting revenue from taprooms/restaurant sales
  • The fact that most downtown St. Paul workers are still at home
  • Rising costs for materials across the board

Black Sheep’s two Minneapolis locations—in the North Loop and on Eat Street—will remain open, despite their proximity to bike lanes (a protected one, in the case of its Eat Street outpost). And I’m willing to admit that maybe, as someone who’s used said protected bike lane to get to their Eat Street location several times, I’m being a little sensitive about this. But this doesn’t make me feel inclined to bike over there again! Even though we gave Black Sheep a pretty dang high rating in our local pizza chain rankings!

*Insert Tyra Banks “I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you, how dare you” gif*

Anyway, the Black Sheep location at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Terminal 1 Mall) has also closed and been replaced by the chain Settebello Pizzeria, presumably because those pesky people movers kept pushing folks right on by.

Update: Post-publication, Black Sheep co-owner Colleen Doran spoke with Racket by phone and said, “I was really just trying to make a difficult decision something light hearted, of course bike lanes didn’t cause us to close, it is obviously never one thing.”