Metro-East News

This was their last chance to say goodbye to Dandy Inn

Popular metro-east Irish restaurant Dandy Inn closes its doors

Dandy Inn, a popular local bar and restaurant in Fairview Heights, IL in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO, closed its doors on Sunday, Jan. 15. Customers and the owner share their thoughts.
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Dandy Inn, a popular local bar and restaurant in Fairview Heights, IL in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO, closed its doors on Sunday, Jan. 15. Customers and the owner share their thoughts.

Sunday marked the end of an era when Dandy Inn, a popular Irish pub and restaurant, closed its doors after nearly 40 years in business.

Owner Mark Daniels said it was time to “start a new book.” Daniels returned to the business to work with his parents, Dave and Phyllis Daniels, after he spent four years in the Air Force. Daniels has put in 35 years working at Dandy Inn, including the years he spent working at the restaurant in high school.

“I’m just tired,” Daniels said. “You don’t own the restaurant. It owns you.”

Though Daniels, 57, says he won’t miss waking up early and staying up late seven days a week, he says he will miss his customers and his longtime employees — and his customers say they will miss him, too. One customer drove in all the way from Kansas City to have one last plate of chicken gizzards before Dandy Inn closed up shop, Daniels said.

“I knew it was an icon in the community, but the outpouring of support has been overwhelming,” Daniels said. “I’m just a simple person trying to make a living, but this became a legacy within the community.”

Locals like the King family say they will miss the laid-back family atmosphere and, they say, the fish. Their family frequented Dandy Inn for family gatherings over the years. Rusty and Sue King and their daughters Erika and Jessi ordered fish at the restaurant on its last day. The family has been going to Dandy Inn for more than 25 years.

“As family grows and everyone goes different ways, this was always a meeting place,” Rusty King said.

Bret Simmons went to Dandy Inn on Sunday to celebrate his 25th birthday with friends. He said he remembers going to the restaurant as a kid after baseball games and getting free M&Ms from the bartenders. Dandy Inn’s special appeal is not one that can be easily explained, he added.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s the culture; it’s a staple,” Simmons said. “It used to be our parents’ spot, and now it’s our spot.”

Customers Ron and Nancy Agne say they will miss the fish and the restaurant’s convenient location as well. They say Dandy Inn was also a favorite St. Patrick’s Day party spot, but the owner says he’s looking forward to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without having to worry about his restaurant.

There’s still some work to be done, the owner said. The remaining food needs to be cleared out, and other chores need to be done before closing up. When asked what he plans to do after all is said and done, Daniels said, “Sleep in.”

The building at 1030 Lincoln Highway is up for sale, Daniels said. He said he believes it won’t be on the market long before someone buys it.

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