Future of Tin Fish rests with Minneapolis Park Board

The packed patio at the Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun is a sure sign of summer--but the future of the institution is up in the air.

In fact, it could close at the end of the year if a proposal from its owners isn't chosen by the Minneapolis Park Board.

For 14 years, Sheff Priest and his wife Athena have run the seafood restaurant at Lake Calhoun. But after 14 summers of owning one of the Twin Cities most popular outdoor hangouts, Priest and his wife are calling it quits.

"I know it's seasonal, but I tell people it's like working at the State Fair," Priest said. "But instead of doing it for 12 days, we do it for 170," 

Priest said after working 120 hours a week from April to October for years, the couple decided not to renew their lease with the Minneapolis Park Board, which ends in December.

The Priests approached three long-time employees to continue the operation under the same name, but the park board says new owners would need a new lease and has opened the bidding process to other potential concepts.

"Its a mixed bag," Priest said. "We look forward to having some time, but we also love this and will always be involved as long as we are able to be. It feels good. We're very proud of what's gone on here."

The Tin Fish was the first private restaurant to go into a public Minneapolis park building. Three others, Sea Salt at Minnehaha Falls, Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis and Break & Pickle at Lake Harriet, soon followed.

The park board is now hoping to expand it's menu of food options, looking for new eateries at the Loppett Trailhead building scheduled to open in Wirth Park next year and the proposed Water Works development near the Stone Arch Bridge the year after that.

"It's neat to see these kinds of facilities be a place where the city can come and enjoy, and we're glad to be a part of it," Priest said.

In the meantime, Priest is glad the trend he started with the Tin Fish isn't over just yet.

"We just look forward to something good happening here, and if it's Tin Fish, that's wonderful," Priest said.

He and his wife say they will continue to run their second location at Braemar Park in Edina.

The park board will accept bids for this location until July 7 and make a final decision in September.