Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Johnny's Restaurant & Bar Owners Are Selling After Two Decades in Soulard

Posted By on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 1:15 PM

click to enlarge RFT FILE PHOTO
  • RFT FILE PHOTO

After 24 years, the owners of Johnny's Restaurant & Bar (1017 Russell Boulevard, 314-865-0900) are getting ready to say goodbye.

Johnny Daus III, who first opened the bar with his parents and two sisters in 1993 and still serves as its chef, confirmed to the RFT that they've found a buyer after two years of searching. The Daus family will relinquish ownership after one last "Blues, Booze and BBQ" on July 29 — and a "huge blowout" the night before.

"It's a little bittersweet, but we've gotta do what we've gotta do," he says.

The new owners are also the team behind Harpo's location in Chesterfield, and they confirm they will be closing Johnny's and reopening as Harpo's. (See our latest post for more information.)

Employees — some of whom have worked for the bar since even before its opening — are being asked to reapply for their jobs, Daus says.

For the Daus family and their corner of Soulard, it's the end of an era. Daus and his sisters grew up in the south city neighborhood, known for its old brick houses and proximity to the Anheuser Busch brewery. "We used to watch the Clydesdales going by in the morning," he recalls.

The family, which includes sisters Laura Slay and Nancy Alukonis, originally owned a counter-service spot in Webster Groves called Rib Ranch. But in 1986, they made their first big investment in Soulard, a bar they called Carson's. At the time, Daus recalls, "I wasn't even old enough to get served at my own bar." He turned 21 six months later.

The family sold Carson's in 1997. They also later founded Joanie's Pizza in 1995, which they sold to an employee in 2003, and DB's Sports Bar, which Daus opened with a friend in 2000 and sold in 2007. By selling Johnny's, they're now shedding their last business in a once-downtrodden neighborhood they did much to shape.

Daus says there's no complicated backstory behind the reason they're selling. His parents John Jr. and Sandra are now in their late 70s, and the sale will allow them to cash out.

His life, too, has changed: At 53, Daus is now the father to a two-year-old. "I have a family now," he says. "I have a little more responsibility than I did before. Before, I'd open and close if I had to. I didn't have anybody waiting for me at home." Meeting his wife of five years — herself once a Johnny's employee — changed things.

But Daus says that local barflies shouldn't count him out. Of customers who are sad to lose his signature wings, he says, "I've been telling them, 'Don't fret, because in the future, you might be able to get those somewhere else.' I'll probably open another place in the future."

For now, those wanting one last taste of Daus' cooking (or banter with those famously hot servers) should stop by — the staff plans to keep busy until their final day on Saturday, July 29. They hope former employees and customers will all stop by for a massive party the night before.

See also: Harpo's to Open in Soulard Spot Previously Home to Johnny's

Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:50 p.m. to include details about the restaurant's new owners.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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