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Gainesville restaurant scene changes again as Mother’s Pub & Grill on University Avenue announces closure

Mother's Pub and Grill on West University Avenue in Gainesville was packed with people on a recent Monday night. The popular restaurant will close the doors of its original location on April 30. (Brandon Carroll/WUFT News)
Mother's Pub and Grill on West University Avenue in Gainesville was packed with people on a recent Monday night. The popular restaurant will close the doors of its original location on April 30. (Brandon Carroll/WUFT News)

Mother’s Pub and Grill, a popular restaurant on West University Avenue, recently shared on Facebook that it will be closing its original location at the end of April.

“I, as the owner, feel it is time for me to move on and focus on the location at NW 39th Ave and the one we plan to open in Newberry by next year,” owner Patrick Schaller wrote in the post.

Mother’s will celebrate its 15th anniversary on April 15 before hosting a going away party on April 30.

But the move is more than your everyday business closure. The decision to stop operation at the restaurant’s original location will leave a hole in the fabric of local restaurants in the city.

“It was just another step in what's been a pattern of Gainesville destructing what it's known for,” local resident and frequent Mother’s Pub patron Zach Goodall said.

The decision adds another name to the list of popular University of Florida bars that are departing. Mother’s Pub joins The Swamp, Leonardo’s 706, Burrito Bros and Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria, among other fan-favorite restaurants that have closed since 2020, according to The Gainesville Sun.

As a result, the complexion of the city and restaurant scene has changed drastically, a reality that's unfortunate for long-time Gainesville natives and college students alike.

As a student at the University of Florida, Harrison Tenzer said he associates Mother’s with a lifetime accomplishment of acceptance into his dream school in the spring of 2021. Soon after being admitted, Tenzer said he traveled to UF to look for an apartment and spent a celebratory night at the pub.

Since moving to Gainesville, Tenzer has frequented the bar on multiple occasions, enjoying time with friends and watching sporting events at the small business, which is walking distance from his apartment.

The closure is another hit to the mom-and-pop shops in the area, said occasional diner Dustin Hart. As apartment complexes and chain restaurants open in their place, Hart said he feels the town is losing its culture.

“If you talk to people who are kind of older, you know, they'll tell you about these great places that they used to have,” he said. “Now, you know, stuff like that is starting to be torn down.”

The building Mother’s currently resides in will remain intact, unlike some other Gainesville staples that have had to shutter their doors.

Donavon Keiser, a University of Florida students, echoed statements that the departure of businesses near campus has caused the city to lose some of its charm.

“Gainesville has changed a lot recently,” he said. “Getting rid of kind of the bread and butter of the culture. [Mother’s] is just in that category of ‘these places kind of made Gainesville, Gainesville,’ and now they're closing.”

Mother’s has been a constant in the Gainesville community surrounding the University of Florida since it opened in the spring of 2007. It brought a different style to the sports viewing experience as an Irish Pub with a twist of Schaller’s Midwestern roots.

But the restaurant wasn’t always planned for Gator country.

When the ownership group looked to open the sports bar back in the mid-2000s, the desired locations included Tampa and Orlando. After an extensive search, the group failed to find suitable spots. As a result, their search moved to smaller cities in the Central Florida area.

When the owners were pitched the 1017 W. University Ave. location, they felt that a spot on the outskirts of a college campus destined their restaurant for success.

“Hey, a college town. Worst-case scenario, you can rebrand yourself every four years,” according to the website.

Mother’s arrived in the spring of 2007, and after a few weeks of renovation to the building, Mother’s opened to the public in July 2007.

The vision was to give residents an Irish sports bar feel, equipped with a multitude of televisions that aired MLB Extra Innings, where they could enjoy games and social time with others. The pub has continued to add channels, networks and even televisions to increase the viewing experience of all sports over the years.

Now, just under 15 years later, it continues to bring the sustained success they had hoped for as an affordable outing for college students. They have done so without the need for rebranding, albeit minuscule changes to the menu and the interior have been made

Alexis Smith-Frady, a former server and bartender at the location from 2010 to 2012, said she thought Schaller's hands-on operation and the cult-like following from different groups like rugby fans, soccer fans, and college students have made the restaurant a popular hangout in the midtown area.

But according to a follow-up comment on the Facebook announcement, owners said they believe the restaurant has outgrown its location.

Smith-Frady, a Gainesville native, looks at the changes over the past few years and sees little resemblance of the town she once knew so well.

The departure of Mother’s Pub and Grill increases that unfamiliarity.

"I don't recognize University," she said.  "I think there's probably a little bit of nostalgia loss when these types of businesses are closing because it's kind of like a chapter closing. As much as we like the new development, I think that it's probably very hard-hitting with these businesses closing, where they've been for decades."

Smith-Frady said she believes the clientele will shift to a more family-oriented style, encouraging parents and children to dine during the day and adults to socialize with drinks and food at night.

But the continuity – both in location and workforce – that made the restaurant a constant in the lives of college students will no longer be there, according to Smith-Frady.

“I think when you go every Tuesday because it's Taco Tuesday, you see the same people over and over again; people know your name,” she said. “It honestly becomes like your home away from home, and I think when you go into college, that's what a lot of people crave, like stability, because they don't have it.”

After Mother's closes its doors at the north Gainesville location will carry on the tradition, in the meantime, and the new restaurant in Newberry set to open next year. This may help Mother’s reel in its old customers — and find new ones.

And Goodall’s, Keiser’s and Tenzer’s visits will become less frequent.

Brandon is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.