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SBJ Editor Eric Olson interviews restaurateur Tom Muetzel for the monthly 12 People You Need to Know series.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
SBJ Editor Eric Olson interviews restaurateur Tom Muetzel for the monthly 12 People You Need to Know series.

Future uncertain for Ophelia’s

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The owner of Ophelia's may have canceled his plans on Commercial Street, but he hasn’t completely given up on the concept.

“You really don’t know what’s coming around the corner,” Tom Muetzel said this morning during Springfield Business Journal’s first 12 People You Need to Know live interview of 2018. “The one thing we’ve learned is nothing is for certain.”

Muetzel and his wife Lori last month canceled plans to reopen the Ophelia’s restaurant and bar at a 150-year-old, leased building at 300 E. Commercial St. The decision followed more than a year of planning and renovation work, as well as the discovery of an underground cellar at the property.

“At this point, I am not involved in it,” Muetzel said, noting it wasn’t practical given the amount of work it would take to finish the remodel with the state of the hidden, leak-heavy cellar.

Known for absinthe, craft beer and cocktails, as well as its food options, including tapas, Ophelia’s first opened in 2006 at Wilhoit Plaza and reopened in 2010 at 216 E. Walnut St. It closed there in 2015 when its next-door neighbor, Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, expanded into its space. The Commercial Street spot would have marked the third reopening for Ophelia’s, which Muetzel said is fairly unheard of in the restaurant industry.

“When you have to close, it takes a lot out of you. When you end up having to close it again, OK, you’ve defied the odds,” he said. “To bring it back to life a third time, this doesn’t happen. It’s really, really, really hard.”

For Muetzel, future decisions would be based on a variety of factors. When opening restaurants and bars, Muetzel operates under the philosophy that the proper site will come to the restaurateur.

“That place becomes evident in your mind,” he said.

A co-owner in Finnegan’s Wake and Sequiota Bike Shop LLC, Muetzel also has typically operated in threes when it comes to his ventures. Ophelia’s was the third in that scenario.

Still, he’s sure Ophelia's fans would return if a reopening were to occur.

“Ophelia’s is an anomaly,” Muetzel said. “We have had a very dedicated clientele base.”


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