Gray’s closes its doors July 17

Farewell to “the lovers, the maestros, the muses.”

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Image by David Stager

The interior of Gray’s, a restaurant and cafe in Dinkytown on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

by Sophia Zimmerman

Gooey artichoke dip, funky bathroom mirrors, ornate tablecloths, the only living bottomless mimosa special in Dinkytown — these are the things we bid farewell to when beloved campus cafe Gray’s closed its doors on Sunday.

“It’s with a mixture of sadness and celebration that we announce Gray’s will be closing in July,” a post on Instagram from July 1 reads, announcing the closure. “We thank our amazing staff for their loyalty and hard work. We thank our incredible customers – our regulars, our irregulars, the beautiful freaks, the lovers, the maestros, the muses – and all our friends who made this place the heart of Dinkytown.”

While the news seemingly arrived out of nowhere, Gray’s did not go quietly into the night. Instead, the business’ final weeks of operation included two weeks’ worth of live music from a variety of local musicians alongside their regularly scheduled Salsa Saturday event.

“It was something that they [the owners] had been working through. I think they wanted to avoid it for as long as possible,” Samantha Campbell, a manager at Gray’s, shared. “Because of Covid, we closed for a month and we took a hit during that. It was harder to sort of pull ourselves back up after that period.”

Gray’s first opened in its most recent state as a cafe and restaurant in December 2020, although the team has occupied the space that was formerly the Loring Bar and Restaurant for the last five years. Since the rebranding, Gray’s had operated with a few core values in mind — sustainability, creativity, independence and the ability to source and support local. According to their Instagram, serving the University of Minnesota community was a tradition held in order to help students and community members “escape the sameness of fast food chains and corporate coffee shops.”

“We really were super busy during the school year. But once summer came around, we just couldn’t keep ourselves afloat,” Campbell said, citing rising costs across all industries as a factor. “It’s a hard time for a lot of restaurants.”

While business may have waned in warmer months with classes paused, the loss of one of the only coffee shops in Dinkytown will likely have an evident impact on students once classes resume.

“I feel like this was really unexpected, especially because it was so popular with students,” rising third-year University student Jessica Pilon said, emphasizing how shocked she was at the abrupt announcement. “I feel like there’s going to be a lot less study spaces now, for one thing.”

Rising third-year University student Krys Mustwillo said she would spend hours at the cafe every week alongside her friends.

“It was like my little pocket of the world where I could escape all the stress and noise of college,” Mustwillo said. “Gray’s has this castle-like aesthetic that really fuels my creativity.”

While Gray’s will cease to exist, there’s hope yet for the future of the space it once occupied. The historic Dinkytown building has yet to be purchased, although Campbell mentioned that potential buyers had expressed interest. And if you find yourself unable to scratch the itch for Gray’s elevated bar food, Loring Catering and Events will continue to operate.