McDonald's to leave the skyways in both downtowns

Somebody should buy Ronald McDonald a drink.

The Golden Arches, having just left downtown Minneapolis in October, will officially vacate the skyways of St. Paul on Wednesday.

See also: Downtown Minneapolis McDonald's will close

Pigs-eye downtowners looking for a McChicken fix will soon find the doors closed at both of the chain's downtown locations in the capital city -- one within the Securian Center and the other in the Alliance Center. The number of Mickey D's in St. Paul's urban core has been dwindling ever since the Wells Fargo Place location shuttered last year.

While McDonald's could not be reached for comment, there's some speculation that the Securian location could be replaced by the company's new, Starbucks-esque McCafe concept, currently being unrolled in Canada. The Alliance Center location will likely return to local control, however, as Scott Johnson, owner of the Nectary deli, has put in a bid to lease the space for a new restaurant called the Skyway Grille.

"One of the reasons the McDonald's down here closed was that they weren't a full store," Johnson says. "They didn't have the dollar menu, or have nights and weekends, so I think Big McDonald's kind of pushed their hand in closing up these type of franchises."

Johnson says he was in talks with the Alliance Center management to expand his current restaurant when the news that McDonald's would be leaving changed his mind. The opportunity to fill a gap in the skyway market was too good to pass up.

"The opportunity just kind of fell in my lap," Johnson explains. "Someone needs to sell a good burger in downtown St. Paul for a fast-food type lunch."

Unlike the previous tenants, Skyway Grille will be a full-menu restaurant with hand-made, quarter pound patties and fresh-cut fries, but Johnson hopes to have a scalable menu to capture some of the smaller ticket prices McDonalds is known for.

"I'll probably have an entry-level, basic cheeseburger for around a 5 dollar price point," Johnson says of the Skyway Grille's menu. "A-la-carte fries for a buck, drinks for a buck, that kind of thing."

Johnson also plans to offer several specialty burgers at a higher price, with toppings such as jalapeno and bacon, in case a basic cheeseburger just won't cut it. The Skyway Grille has a projected opening date of March 2014, but in the meantime Downtown St. Paulites can hang with old standbys like Mickey's Diner.

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