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No more sit-down service for St. Paul skyway diners: Four Inns on way out

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A venerable St. Paul diner will serve its last meal this week, when the Four Inns slides its skyway door closed after 45 years.

Owner Deirdre Renchin made the announcement on the restaurant's Facebook page.

She tells the Pioneer Press that closing the Four Inns is probably the most difficult decision she's made, but says it was sealed by the news that Ecolab will move its nearby employees to an office building in another part of downtown.

Renchin purchased the restaurant in 2012 and tells the Pioneer Press business has not been great.

Indeed, the line of diners waiting for a table no longer snakes out the door and around the velvet rope that was once used to keep Four Inns customers from blocking the flow of skyway traffic.

While the daily specials at the Four Inns were whipped up faster than at many sit-down restaurants, it was no match for the time pressure today's downtown workers feel.

More than a decade ago, USA Today was reporting on a survey that found more than one-third of Americans reporting they have lunch at their desk.

By last year, the author of an opinion piece in Forbes called "Why Your Lunch Break is Sacred" wrote of research showing only one in five American employees takes a lunch break.

So the booths and counters at the Four Inns had become a throwback of sorts. But for some of us, that was part of the charm.

In its heyday, the Four Inns offered several different choices of fresh-baked pies for dessert. Popular varieties would sell out quickly. But if a server knew a regular customer's favorite kind, a slice would often be saved behind the counter until that customer arrived.

Servers who squirrel away slices of pie. One of the things we'll miss about the Four Inns.

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