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Commodore restaurant ordered to close west dining room, pay costs in long-running saga

The owner has gone head-to-head with the city on this for the past 5 years.
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The Commodore restaurant in St. Paul has been ordered to close its west dining room, and pay a fine and costs following a city council vote earlier this month.

It marks the end of a long-running saga spanning almost five years, as the owner of the restaurant, John Rupp, butted heads with city officials over the use of the room at the 79 Western Avenue eatery.

Last week, the city council voted 5-2 to order Rupp to shut down the room, as well as pay a $500 fine and $24,000 in hearing costs.

Rupp had spent $10,000 renovating the room, which was formerly a part of the University Club's squash club and the Commodore Hotel, and made it part of the wider Commodore restaurant's re-opening in October 2015, having spent 30 years previously as a private event space.

He would continue to use the room, serving food and drinks in it, despite the city telling him he didn't have an occupancy permit required for its use.

The issue eventually went before a judge in December, who backed the city on 5 of the 7 claims of building code violations and recommended the $500 fine.

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A letter from the city to Rupp in 2015 noted that the west dining room had not been included in a 2012 building permit issued for the restaurant's construction, with a note on the plans stating that a "future west dining" area would be addressed under "separate permits."

Per the Pioneer Press, the city said that there was "no evidence the space had previously been used or permitted as a dining room," with evidence presented to the council showing that it had previously been an exercise room.

At the hearing on Feb. 5, Rupp argued that he had obtained an alcohol license for the entire building, and said that even when the west dining room was part of the squash club, it had been serving alcohol continuously since 1976.

Rupp will still be able to re-open the west dining room once he obtains an occupancy permit, as well as meet several licensing conditions.

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