Jeremiah Bullfrogs closes

A man carries signs out of Jeremiah Bullfrogs on SW Huntoon Monday morning after the business declared that it has closed the location due to the economic environment and other personal reasons. (CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL)

Jeremiah Bullfrogs closes

Owner attributes closure to 'challenging economic environment'
October 6, 2014

Jeremiah Bullfrogs Live, a staple of Topeka nightlife, has shuttered its doors after about a decade as a hotspot for live entertainment, stand-up comedy and sports entertainment.

Commonly lauded as one of the best patio spots in the area, and a frequent haunt of college-age adults, the bar opened in November 2002 at 4115 S.W. Huntoon as an extension of Jeremiah Bullfrogs Bar and Grill at 2940 S.W. Wanamaker. The bar closed without fanfare, but not quietly. With the Royals playing in the postseason for the first time in almost three decades and qualifying for the American League championship series, the bar closed on a high note, but the owner didn’t notify patrons or staff members of the decision prior to Monday morning, when a note appeared on the door alerting passerby of the closure.

“The decision to close was largely attributable to the challenging economic environment confronting many locally owned businesses, as well as some reasons that are personal to the ownership,” the note said.

Rob Fateley, owner of Bullfrogs Live, was at the location Monday morning but declined to comment beyond the note on the door. A locksmith was also on scene.

The original Jeremiah Bullfrogs location at S.W. 29th and Wanamaker will remain open. The note outside the Gage Center location encouraged fans and frequent attendees to go there.

The Bullfrogs Live location became quite popular as a sports bar and live entertainment venue, and was voted Best Bar in Topeka in 2012. Fateley attributed his then-success to the facility’s diversity, incorporating different types of music and comedy shows with their sporting atmosphere.

“We’re a multi-faceted facility,” he said in a 2012 interview, “We have the best patio in Topeka, with bands every Friday and Saturday through the summer months and into the fall. We have fans and heaters so we can cover just about any season. Plus, our sports bar has a great setup with multi-level seating and 50 TVs.”

Those TVs have had a workout in Topeka, with Jayhawks fans converging on Bullfrogs Live in April 2012 to watch the NCAA Tournament national championship when The University of Kansas men’s basketball team fell to the Kentucky Wildcats, 67-59. Royals fans celebrated the bar’s last night watching the screens as the Kansas City team worked the playoffs for the first time in almost 30 years.

The Shawnee County Appraiser’s Office lists Kent Lindemuth as the property owner of the Gage Center bar. Bullfrogs Live was among the nearly 200 Topeka properties that faced uncertainty when the Topeka developer filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy in November 2012. A story in a January edition of The Topeka Capital-Journal said Bullfrogs Live was almost forced to close over a county policy that would have denied the business’ license because of Lindemuth’s unpaid taxes. Fateley addressed the Topeka City Council about the situation and was granted an exemption.

Other Lindemuth properties in the area complained the developer’s tax woes made maintenance of the properties difficult or impossible, contributing to business closures.

Lindemuth said he couldn’t speak to the owner’s reasons for closing the bar, but said he has already had businesses approach him about the space.

“There are some folks showing an interest but nothing has been confirmed,” Lindemuth said, declining to identify the interested party. “Any time that you have a change of use or occupancy, there are some adjustments that need to be done, but the folks that have shown an interest would do about the same set up.”

Despite Fateley’s citation of economic times, Lindemuth said there is no reason to worry for other Gage Center businesses.

“Things are looking a little more promising, and people there are inquiring about more space.” Lindemuth said. “I think that applies for all of Topeka. There’s opportunities.”

After rumors of a Skinny’s Sports Bar and Grill takeover of the Bullfrogs Live location began circulating Twitter, Mark “Skinny” Schonlaw said the bar at 4016 S.W. Huntoon isn’t going anywhere. Schonlaw said it is true he made some inquiries into pricing when he heard the bar was going on the market a few months ago, but he ultimately dismissed the thought.

“I’m not interested in moving across the street to pay as much or more than I’m paying now,” Schonlaw said. “I’ve got a good relationship with my landlord here. As of right now I’m happy where we’re at. Skinny’s is doing pretty well. We’re not going anywhere.”

When Bullfrogs Live opened, it was co-owned by Fateley and his wife Tanja and Todd Howell. According to an April 2011 Capital-Journal article, Howell left Bullfrogs Live in 2011 after nine years as an owner and manager to found the Lazy Toad Restaurant Sports Bar and Lounge with his parents and wife at 5331 S.W. 22nd Place in the Fairlawn Plaza. Shawnee County District Court records show the Fateleys filed for divorce in June 2013.