Sporty’s Pub and Grill, a longtime haunt in Southeast Como, is closing this summer to make way for a new restaurant.
The bar's last day of operation will be June 30, said owner Chris Chistopherson. A new restaurant, Como Tap, is expected to open at the location of 22nd Avenue Southeast and Como Avenue Southeast in late August.
Christopherson’s lease for the bar, nicknamed Sporty’s for decades, will end in July after unsuccessful renewal negotiations. Renewing the lease would have included a substantial rent increase that Christopherson found unsustainable, he said.
During negotiations, Christopherson said he received a letter informing him the lease would not be renewed.
“This is not my intent, it breaks my heart. Because I feel like we're allowing an institution to die,” Christopherson said. “But I understand it, I understand business. I understand maximizing profits and I don't know that I'd have done anything different if I was in Joe's spot, because he owns the building. He operated Sporty’s for 14 years.”
The building’s owner, Joe Radaich, operated Sporty’s from 1998 to 2012, when Christopherson bought the business.
Radaich will open Como Tap with former Sporty’s employee Jana Kern, who served at the location for about 16 years. Kern even served Christopherson and his family when they visited before he purchased the business.
“The way the server operated towards us, to the food that we had, to the music, so just the whole atmosphere kind of came together,” Christopherson said. “I was just like, 'I could hang out here all day.'”
The building carries a history dating back to the early 1900s, when it was the Como Inn. The location’s first bar opened in 1963, eventually absorbing the neighboring grocery store and barbershop — changing hands and names several times.
Multiple staff have worked at Sporty’s for years, including Kern and other staffers who worked there before Christopherson acquired the business. The bar is frequented by many regular customers, including a man who always sits at the same spot, Christopherson said.
“I've met people from so many walks of life, in so many places. I'll be wearing my Sporty’s hoodie in other states, and have people be like, ‘Hey, Sporty’s, yeah,’” Christopherson said.
Former University of Minnesota student Seth Campbell said Sporty’s has been a “social hub” for him where he has met friends while playing trivia.
“It’s the first bar that I ever really felt like, 'that’s my neighborhood bar.' And so it hurts to see that it’s not going to be there for me anymore,” Campbell said. “I hope that the new place is able to still fill that niche, but new things are weird. People don’t like change, myself included.”
While Sporty’s wasn’t former University student Michael Fogarty’s first bar choice when hanging out in Como, he said it had a positive reputation among college students.
“It was kind of that beloved Como dive bar and so, it’s definitely sad to see it go,” Fogarty said. “But I'm hoping the new place that opens up can hopefully stand on its own and add a new dimension to the bar scene in the area.”