Whitey’s to reopen in OctoberThe hum of power tools reverberated inside the empty restaurant Thursday as workers put some finishing touches on an extensive remodeling of the iconic Whitey’s building on the boardwalk in East Grand Forks.
The hum of power tools reverberated inside the empty restaurant Thursday as workers put some finishing touches on an extensive remodeling of the iconic Whitey’s building on the boardwalk in East Grand Forks.
Whitey’s, which closed in February, is set to reopen early next month.
New owner Tim Bjerk, who owns and operates Gene’s Bar & Grill in Roseau, Minn., said unforeseen complications during construction pushed back the opening, which had been planned this month.
Bjerk said repairs to the walls and the roof proved more extensive than expected.
“We ran into a few problems, but we overcame them and we’re doing OK,” he said.
New walls with fresh coats of tan paint topped by glass blocks are some of the more modern touches added to the historic restaurant during renovation.
Bjerk said he made an effort to preserve some of the nostalgia and historic elements of the landmark. He commended GW & Sons Construction for its building skill and design input as general contractor on the project.
“I hope people will like the changes as much as we do,” he said. “We gave it a fresh, clean look, but kept some of the history alive.”
The area surrounding the bar has been opened up. Walls have been added in the back of the restaurant to separate some of the more intimate seating facing the patio and the Red River. Walls have also been added along the walkway between the front and back of the restaurant to separate where food is brought from the kitchen and reduce traffic in the dining areas.
The dining room, which will feature more intimate seating on one side and group seating on the other side, will have a mix of vinyl plank and carpet flooring. Bjerk said it wasn’t possible to preserve the original hardwood flooring in part of the dining room.
A game room will replace seating along DeMers Avenue adjacent to the bar. The walls surrounding the bar will be lined with new booths and wall benches. The historic Whitey’s Wonderbar is still in the same spot, but it has been extended to enclose the back of the bar.
More than half of the restaurant’s planned staff of about 50 full- and part-time employees have already been hired. Bjerk said he hopes to have enough work completed to be able to conduct training for new employees in the restaurant next week.
He said he has finished the new menu, which will include “a lot of the classics from here and some of the favorites from Gene’s in Roseau, with good steak and seafood.”
Bjerk said he has been putting in 14-hour days since renovations began in early July. Although he still expects to work long hours once Whitey’s reopens, Bjerk said he is looking forward to it.
“We’ve put a lot of love or a lot of care back into the building,” he said. “We think it will be more easily accessible and it will allow us to better serve customers. I’m getting more excited about it because I can see my vision coming to life. We’re excited to open up and let people see what we’ve been working on.”
Schuster reports on business. Reach him at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Schuster on Twitter at @RyanSchuster.