It hasn’t been easy but Chris Warde, the owner of Finnegan’s Fighting Goat, a downtown Stillwater pub has managed to keep the faith throughout the challenges COVID-19 has presented this year.
The hospitality sector, especially restaurants and bars, have been hit especially hard. But after temporarily closing for the second time, Warde is making plans that he hopes will enable Finnegan’s to celebrate its 10th anniversary in a new home just up the block from its current location at 716 S. Main.
Finnegan’s had a loyal customer base at its current location and Warde has resisted moving, even though he and his mother owned another building at 704 S. Main.
They instead leased it to a variety of businesses that haven’t made if for the long haul.
Warde said with the financial pressure the shutdown brought to bear and a lease that was expiring, it made sense to cut his expenses by moving into the building he already owns.
“It all just kind of came together,” he said.
The new location near the corner of 7th Avenue and Main Street will require some remodeling to make room for Finnegan’s extensive beer tap system, and provide a roomier layout. He’ll be moving and extending the bar, building a cooler and giving the interior a dark, moody makeover that feels classic with a hint of dive bar, the atmosphere his loyal customers have come to know and love.
Looking around the old space, Warde pointed to a black wall near the pool tables that customers have personalized over the past decade, inscribing their names and leaving doodles.
“That’s one of the things I hate to leave,” he said.
He’s trying to figure out a way to preserve the wall, which he considers a living and evolving piece of art, and bring it into the new space.
Although Warde will miss Finnegan’s old home, the new location provides some opportunities.
For example, it has two entrances, so non-smokers won’t have to run a gauntlet through the outdoor smoking area to get through the door. It’s something some people have complained about it the past, Warde said.
It also offers a stage area, much nicer bathrooms, and a secondary space facing 7th Avenue that will provide a quieter area for people to hang out and talk, he said.
But some things won’t change.
Finnegan’s will still offer the largest selection of draught beers in town along with foosball, darts, shuffle board and most importantly, free pool tables.
Warde hopes to have the remodeling done at the new location in time to hold a combination anniversary/grand reopening in November but says he won’t open Finnegan’s until the spread of COVID-19 in Stillwater has died down.
He doesn’t want to take a chance with the health of his employees or his customers, he said.
In the meantime, he's clearing out the old location and selling some excess supplies, including beer signs, food service items and beer-labeled glassware. Warde and a crew of friends who are willing to work for beer will be moving things into the new building all weekend.
“If anyone is interested, come on down, wear a mask, and make me an offer today,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
Following Finnegan's Fighting Goat on Facebook is the best way to stay up to date on its progress.
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