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The Changing Facade of O’Gara’s

Big changes are coming to the Selby-Snelling area of St. Paul. Neighborhood mainstay O’Gara’s Bar and Grill could be torn down later this year, replaced by a new main floor bar/restaurant with up to three stories of apartments above. The longtime Dairy Queen across Snelling could be replaced soon with a Savoy’s Pizza. The changes are expected to have weeks if not months of community and city reviews.

The change means that 2018 was the last St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the current O’Gara’s complex. Changing times in the restaurant industry and the need to downsize are driving the redevelopment, said third-generation owner Dan O’Gara. The project involves tearing down the complex of smaller buildings that have been conjoined to become the bar and restaurant, as well as removing three houses on Hague Avenue that the O’Gara family owns.

“We know it’s going to be a big change for the neighborhood and we want to approach it carefully,” O’Gara said. He and co-developer Ryan Companies have discussed ideas with neighbors, rather than presenting a fully developed set of plans. 

O’Gara’s is at the southeast corner of Selby and Snelling avenues. Ryan Companies led the redevelopment of the northeast corner, now occupied by Whole Foods, Vintage on Selby apartments, a new Associated Bank and Starbucks. 

Tony Barranco, who led the Vintage-Whole Food project, said, “We are looking forward to working with O’Gara’s and the neighbors again on this great corner. Building off the success of the Vintage on Selby we expect this redevelopment will add to the incredible vibrancy of Union Park, creating a mixed-use project anchored by a reimagined O’Gara’s neighborhood pub and restaurant.”

O’Gara said he liked how Ryan staff worked with the neighborhood and wants to follow the same path for his family’s property. 

Preliminary plans call for a smaller O’Gara’s. The current space is about 20,000 square feet in size. The new bar/restaurant would have one banquet room for about 40 diners and would be about 6,000 square feet. The building would have first floor enclosed parking for O’Gara’s patrons and underground parking for three floors of apartment residents. 

“This (downsizing) would get us back to our roots as an Irish neighborhood pub,” O’Gara said. The planned bar/restaurant would hold about 300 people, down from the 900 O’Gara’s now accommodates. 

“Young people don’t go out to listen to music as much as they used to,” O’Gara said. The advent of more craft breweries and restaurants is another factor. “A lot of the new places around us do a really good job,” O’Gara said. “To compete, we’ve got to change with the times.”

Dan O'Gara's grandfather Jim O’Gara opened the doors March 1, 1941. His son and Dan’s father, the late Tim O’Gara, was the second generation to own and operate the business.

Over the years O’Gara’s grew from one Snelling storefront into other neighborhood store spaces, including furniture, appliance and a TV store, and a garage. The most famous space was the Family Barber Shop occupied by the father of Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. Schulz and his family lived in an apartment upstairs when he was a child.  

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