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When Celebrity Restaurant Owners Defect

When Celebrity Restaurant Owners Defect

You know a restaurant is in trouble when it needs a security guard to keep irate customers away from the 10-foot-high statue of its namesake owner that stands out front. That’s what they had to do in St. Louis when hometown baseball hero Albert Pujols, name partner in Pujols 5 Grill, left town to take a big-buck offer from the California Angels. Where does this leave his restaurant?

St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans were still on a high from winning the 2011 World Series when they learned that long-time star and two-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols was taking his talents to Southern California to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the team more commonly known as the California Angels. Angry fans felt betrayed.

They could understand the nine-time All Star signing a 10-year, $254 million contract that would take him to the end of the career and set him up financially for life. They just couldn’t believe he would leave St. Louis, where he had played all 11 of his previous seasons, to do it.
But that’s baseball, and the Cardinals, like Pujols, are moving on. But Pujols’s partners in Pujols 5 Grill—the 5 refers to his uniform number—don’t have that luxury. The restaurant lives on, and the managing partners who run it now have to deal with the anti-Pujols backlash.

At least the place already has a solid customer base. It’s been in business since 2006 and offers multiple dining venues under one roof. The Pujols 5 menu offers traditional sports bar items plus plenty of casual dining favorites. The restaurant’s location at Westport Plaza in the Maryland Heights neighborhood is ideal. We’ll be interested in seeing what moves operating partner Hanon Management Group make to keep the Pujols 5 Grill’s 208 seats filled.

For his part, Pujols sought to mend fences with St. Louis fans by taking out a full-page ad in the Dec. 9 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It says, in part:

“My decision to leave has been incredibly difficult, and your support is the biggest reason why. While I am excited about this new chapter in my life, it was very important to me to let you know that St. Louis has been, and will always remain in my heart. We call St. Louis home and my family and I are so blessed to have made lifelong relationships in St. Louis that we look forward to continuing for many years to come, and words cannot fully express our gratitude to you all.”

Heartfelt words, although fans are aware it’s easy to say them when you know you’ll be making $200,000 per game when you’re 41 years old. Will this message be enough to convince Cardinal Nation to forgive and forget and keep patronizing Pujols 5 restaurant like they did before?

The ad’s a start. But keep your eye on the promotional moves they’ll be making at Pujols 5 Grill. If the number of reservations showing up as available on OpenTable as we write this story is an indication, the operators will be pulling out all stops to keep this fine restaurant performing as well as it has in the past.