Former Big John’s Bar building facing demolition

The former site of Big John’s Corner Bar at the corner of Southview Boulevard and Ninth Avenue has deteriorated after sitting empty for nearly three years and now could face demolition. (Luke Reiter/Review)

A South St. Paul building that used to be known as the place to go for a rowdy evening may be facing its last rumble.

The city council voted in its July 1 meeting to demolish the former home of Big John’s Corner Bar at Southview Boulevard and Ninth Avenue if the property owners don’t complete extensive repairs within the next 90 days. The building has sat vacant since the last tenant, “Big” John Dadovich, died in 2010 and has deteriorated to hazardous conditions in that time, according to city staff.

The council based its decision on an inspection report from Joe Heimkes, the city’s building official. Heimkes, along with City Planner Peter Hellegers, gained access to the building, located at 900 Southview Blvd., June 7 after receiving an administrative search warrant from Dakota County Judge Richard Spicer.

Inside they found extensive damage, including multiple holes in the roof that led to standing water inside, rotting wood and mold deposits.

The report also notes that the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has been completely removed, along with much of the ductwork.

The building’s electrical system is in “complete disrepair,” according to the report, and would need to be fully rewired to meet city code.

The report states that the plumbing system also requires a complete overhaul and the building has long since been disconnected from city water.

Missed last chance?

The property was briefly slated for a new life in 2011 when the Pestello family, who own the land, brought plans to the city council for what they described as a family-friendly bar and restaurant. The family already owns one such restaurant in Pequot Lakes. Curtis Pestello told the council at a public hearing in 2011 that he planned to spend around $125,000 to remodel the building.

“I do run a good place and I do plan on putting a lot of money in it and being good for the neighborhood,” Pestello told the council at the time.

Some residents who lived near the property objected to the plan for another business at the site, saying that Big John’s Bar had been a magnet for rough customers and illegal activity, and they feared the legacy would continue if another bar opened in the same location.

More damaging to Pestello’s plans, however, was the denial of a liquor license. While the bar had been grandfathered in due to years of continuous operation, updated zoning laws no longer allowed for a liquor license so close to a church.

Pestello requested an exception for his restaurant, but the council voted 4-2 to deny the license after a background check (standard for all liquor license applicants) revealed Pestello’s past convictions for drunk driving and giving a false name to a peace officer.

The Pestello family did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

Luke Reiter can be reached at or at 651-748-7815.

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