Interior demolition work on a new downtown Grand Forks steakhouse has begun but large scale renovations won’t start until early spring, according to building owner Hal Gershman, president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops.

The business is located at 421 DeMers Ave., in the building that formerly housed the Howe and Seaworth law offices. It is set to become a 1940s-style steakhouse, called Harry’s on DeMers. The project is set to take advantage of Renaissance Zone incentives such as a temporary period of state income tax exemption. Gershman has assembled a team to assist him with the project including JLG Architects, Innes Construction Inc. and restaurateur and chef Kim Holmes, the previous owner of fine-dining establishment Sanders 1907.

“Just terrific,” replied Gershman, when asked how the concept of the steakhouse was proceeding in a Jan. 21 phone call. “We're really thrilled with it. I think people are going to enjoy what they see and enjoy what they eat. It's been a lot of fun, and I think it's going to be nice.”

Gershman told the Herald his design team has met with the city to work on a timeline on how to proceed.

Deputy City Planner Ryan Brooks said the meeting with the city was a precursor to obtaining a building permit. Gershman had previously obtained a demolition permit to expose interior walls.

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“It was our first meeting with JLG and his folks, so it was really just to get everybody acquainted with the project and moving forward from there,” Brooks told the Herald.

Gershman said he and his team are spending a lot of time focusing on details, such as lighting and acoustics, to make the restaurant comfortable.

“That's going to be a very important part so that people can actually have a conversation,” he said.

The restaurant will seat more than 100 people and will have a full bar, according to Gershman, who said he was proud to have Kim Holmes as a part of his team to consult on the kitchen, menu, service and “the whole gamut.”

“We're thrilled to have Kim on the team, and that's adding a really, really fun dimension for us,” he said.

Gershman said he hopes to begin major construction work in early March. The ceiling will be raised 5 feet to give more seating-height. That portion of the construction project will require better weather, he said.

The project will take advantage of the state’s Renaissance Zone program, which requires building owners to invest 50% of the value of the structure into improvements. Upon completion, owners are eligible for a five-year period of state income tax exemption on business income earned at the property. Owners are also eligible for a five-year period of property tax exemption on the value added to the building through improvements. This means the city will still collect property tax for the building as if the improvements had never happened.