Kaiser’s in Midtown is closed and the historic century-old building’s future is uncertain with the discovery of structural damage believed to be related to expansion of the adjoining St. Anthony Hospital.
Robbie Brookshire, owner of Kaiser’s American Bistro, 1039 N Walker Ave., for the past two years, said the restaurant was “doing great” before construction starting earlier this month.
“When they blocked 10th Street off and took away the few parking spots I had, it became just too hard to even walk to Kaiser’s,” Brookshire said. “They (officials at St. Anthony) were letting me know what was going on, and they had a person I was dealing with who would address things personally. This is really no one’s fault – it happens.”
Stephanie Schaffer, who assumed control of the building from her father, attorney Peter Schaffer, hoped to have the restaurant quickly reopen with a new operator. An inspection required as part of reassigning the lease uncovered structural damage that now will be surveyed by engineers.
That inspection, completed last Friday, suggested a large vertical crack in the south wall was related to the demolition of a building cleared for the new hospital wing. Schaffer, who once managed the restaurant itself when it was operated by her father as The Grateful Bean Cafe, said she is uncertain whether the damage can be fixed.
Like Brookshire, however, Schaffer was complimentary of the hospital’s effort to assist the restaurant during construction. The hospital, she said, provided a generator and back-up generator to ensure the restaurant could stay open during power interruptions. Brookshire said the hospital provided a computer backup as well.
Sandra Payne, spokeswoman for St. Anthony, said the hospital was unable to comment on the damage.
“St. Anthony has just learned about the report,” Payne said. “At this time we have not had a chance to review the findings and as a result cannot speak to the contents. However, we have worked very closely with the Kaiser’s owners over the past two years, and will work closely with them as we review this information.”
Payne said the streets should be reopened within three weeks.
“With any construction project like the pavilion, there is staging that is needed before construction can get underway.
“The work you are seeing now is with the relocation of electrical lines.”
Payne said the hospital expansion will be completed by May 2016. The $53 million addition will include three floors of patient care units, a new intensive care unit and emergency room.
Efforts to alleviate growing pains include the opening of a grass parking lot between Hudson and Walker Avenues, south of NW 9, for Midtown visitors.
Kaiser’s was started by Swiss immigrant Anthony J. Kaiser, who first opened his ice cream parlor in 1909 with 50 cents in his pocket, a three-quart ice cream freezer and family recipes. He moved to NW 10 and Walker Avenue in 1919, and the Kaiser family operated the ice cream shop and restaurant until 1977, when it was sold to Larry Burke. Attorney Peter K. Schaffer bought the building and restaurant in 1982. He operated the restaurant as a nonprofit, The Grateful Bean Café, employing the chronically unemployed until a few years ago. With Midtown enjoying a revival, the restaurant reopened as an upscale bistro that included converting half of the historic soda fountain counter into a bar with liquor sales. The last operator, Robbie Brookshire, ended sales of liquor and restored the ice cream and soda fountain counter. Stephanie Schaffer, who now owns the building, declined to identify the potential new operator. Brookshire said he was told the new operator plans to bring back liquor sales and introduce upscale dining with a wait staff.