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Wicked Moose Bar & Grill

Something wicked this way goes.

It looks like the end of March also will be the end of Rochester's Wicked Moose Bar & Grill at 1201 Eastgate Drive SE.

Co-owner Darren Groteboer says he anticipates the cavernous watering hole and music venue probably will close its doors for good by March 31 as a step toward eventually being demolished to make way for the proposed Eastgate Apartments workforce housing project.

"Our liquor license and insurance end on March 31, so that seems like a logical time to close," he said.

The Eastgate Apartments, being built by South Dakota developer Nate Stencil, still is in the permitting phase. Groteboer estimated demolition of the Wicked Moose and construction of the four-story, 135-unit complex probably would not start before late spring or early summer.

Groteboer and his business partnerm, Ken Nash, have owned the 7,000-square-foot complex since April 2005, when they purchased it for $2.3 million.

The late Tom Murphy built the original Dooley's Lounge and Grill on the site in 1980. That later transformed into McMurphy's Sports Bar and it was expanded to add the popular Aquarius dance club in 1990.

In 2010, Murphy closed his operations there and opened Dooley's Pub and Restaurant in the city-owned Minnesota BioBusiness Center in downtown Rochester.

Groteboer and Nash, who had not expected to ever own a bar, revamped the facility and re-named it the Wicked Moose. The duo brought in well-known bar manager Scott Schneider as a partner to run the operation, when Rookies Sports Bar & Grill closed in 2011.

"Our 35 to 40 employees have been kept abreast all along. We have such a good and loyal staff that they've stayed," Schneider said. "I know a lot of restaurant and bar owners in town. We're working on lining up spots for all of them before we close."

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