‘It’s Been an Incredible Ride’: Toad in the Hole Pub in Santa Rosa Closes after 17 Years

“All of the help the government said would come after COVID just isn’t true,” owner of the Santa Rosa pub Paul Stokeld said. “Everyone is shaking the tree for money. It’s just time to hang it up.”

Toad in the Hole Pub in Santa Rosa, known for its British vibe and “Cheers”-like warmth, has closed after 17 years.

For many, the Railroad Square spot wasn’t just a place to get a pint. It was where friends gathered to watch live local bands, find camaraderie during World Cup matches or belly up to the bar with a basket of fish and chips.

But like so many other restaurant and bar owners, owner Paul Stokeld said he just can’t make the numbers pencil out anymore.

“It was a battle through COVID, and after that we were just trying to get back on a level playing field,” he said. “But we were behind the eight ball the whole time.”

In what’s come to be a sad procedure for many small businesses, Stokeld informed fans of the closure on Facebook Jan. 29.

“It’s been an incredible ride. We cannot dig out of the ‘hole’ that COVID gave us, and the cavalry is not coming,” he wrote.

Hundreds of comments flooded in immediately — from a family who brought each of their children to the Toad before going home from the hospital, a musician who played his first public show there, a married couple who met at the pub and many others who saw Toad in the Hole as an extension of the Old Vic, owned by Stokeld’s uncle, Chris Stokeld.

That downtown watering hole closed in 2003 but was a longtime destination for more than a decade. It’s also where the younger Stokeld learned to make his uncle’s much-loved meat pies, which were on the menu at Toad.

“My uncle established what a pub means here,” Paul Stokeld said. “It’s a community hub and has its own energy. I just took up the mantle proudly and kept it going.”

Toad in the Hole joins a growing list of breweries and pubs that have closed in recent months, including Steele and Hops in Santa Rosa and Grav South Brewing Co. in Cotati, and others, like Third Street Aleworks, who plan to close when their lease runs out this year.

Stokeld said one of the main challenges was the food program.

“We became known as a restaurant, more than anything else, as tap rooms proliferated. Regulars became people that came here to eat, and there just isn’t enough money in that. We were doing all the bistro stuff, getting our food (locally) and then we had to charge higher prices,” he said.

“It all just snowballs, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When the numbers don’t add up, they don’t add up.”

The meat pies, pints and music aren’t going away entirely, however. Stokeld is co-owner of Healdsburg’s Elephant in the Room. He and KC Mosso, a longtime musician and promoter, have frequent events and bands at the tiny space (which Stokeld plans to expand), along with the famous pies.

“We established a nice little pub in Healdsburg for the proletariat,” Stokeld said.

Several people have expressed interest in buying the Santa Rosa pub, according to Stokeld, but so far no one has offered what he needs to come out above water, financially.

“All of the help the government said would come after COVID just isn’t true,” he said. “Everyone is shaking the tree for money. It’s just time to hang it up.”