Downtown Irish pub closing its doors

Last call for Mortimer Kegley’s

Mortimer Kegley's owner Jason Jordan, left, mans the bar as his two lone patrons watch the High Street passersby from their window table shortly after 5 p.m. on Monday. Citing a difficult economy and increasing restrictions on the bar industry, Jordan announced to Kegley's Facebook followers on Sunday that he will be shutting down the High Street mainstay after 34 years at the close of business March 21, following a blowout final goodbye party.

Mortimer Kegley's owner Jason Jordan, left, mans the bar as his two lone patrons watch the High Street passersby from their window table shortly after 5 p.m. on Monday. Citing a difficult economy and increasing restrictions on the bar industry, Jordan announced to Kegley's Facebook followers on Sunday that he will be shutting down the High Street mainstay after 34 years at the close of business March 21, following a blowout final goodbye party. Photo by Kris Wilson.

A downtown staple is closing after 34 years of serving drinks and cheap eats.

Mortimer Kegley’s Bar & Grill, an Irish pub a block east of the Capitol, will close March 21, said Jason Jordan, the owner since 2003.

Until this past November, the upstairs restaurant has featured lunch specials that include sandwiches, hand-cut fries and other sides. A hand-pattied, third-pound hamburger goes for $3.75. At the bar and lounge downstairs, patrons can have a drink while eating and watching sports on big-screen TVs. The bar includes eight beers on tap.

Kelsi Poe, a bartender at J Pfenny’s Sports Grill & Pub, comes to Kegley’s nearly every day to unwind after her shift. She and her boyfriend had their first date at Kegley’s and they continue to watch St. Louis Blues games there together.

“I’m sad it’s going to be closing,” she said late Monday afternoon, sipping on a drink at the bar. “We’ve had some good times here.”

The economy, increased reporting requirements for Missouri politicians and tougher DWI laws have contributed to a decline in business, Jordan said. But perhaps the biggest factor is the city’s smoking ban. That factor alone cut business by about 30 percent, he said.

“Things keep happening that make it tougher and tougher to make it in this industry,” Jordan said.

Another factor, he said, is the growth in downtown eateries. When he bought Kegley’s in 2003, he counted 13 places to eat downtown, including state cafeterias and Tolson Drug Store. Today, he said, there are 26.

But Jordan isn’t dwelling on the negative. During the business’ last two weeks, he’d rather focus on celebrating all of the good times people have had there. More than once, for instance, a man has stood on the bar and successfully proposed to his girlfriend.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday and next Monday, the business will have the “best corned beef and cabbage in town,” plus drink and shot specials, Jordan said on the Kegley’s Facebook page. On the final day of business next Friday, he plans a “blowout party” with various specials.

Jordan said he doesn’t have solid plans for the future, but says he has “a couple of irons in the fire.” First, he said, he wants to take some time off from what are often 70-hour work weeks.

“I appreciate everything everybody’s done for me and to support me over the years,” he said.

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