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Lawsuit alleges Joe’s Diner, Wake ‘N Bak’n Cafe owner did not pay for supplies for business

Joe Bushaw announced the permanent closure of his three restaurants in a Facebook post on the East Grand Forks Joe’s Diner page on Sept. 27.

Gavel Court Crime Courts
Joe Bushaw IV opened his second restaurant in East Grand Forks in 2020.
Submitted photo
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EAST GRAND FORKS – Joe Bushaw, owner of three now-closed restaurants in the region, is being sued by another local business owner for allegedly not paying for supplies to start a business.

Bushaw was the owner of Joe’s Diner in East Grand Forks and Crookston and the Wake ‘N Bak’n Cafe in Grand Forks. He announced the permanent closure of all three restaurants in a Facebook post on the East Grand Forks Joe’s Diner page on Sept. 27. Bushaw told the Herald that this lawsuit and a previous lawsuit against him were not factors in his decision to close his restaurant.

A recent lawsuit filed against Bushaw by Brandon Buckalew, owner of Local ACE Hardware, claims Bushaw did not pay for $5,517.68 worth of items purchased to open a business. According to court documents filed Sept. 8, after multiple attempts to collect payment from Bushaw, his “checks would bounce or he would say he is bringing in another form of payment and never did.”

The address listed in the court documents for Bushaw is 3450 Gateway Dr. in Grand Forks, the location of the Wake ‘N Bak’n Cafe, which opened in April. A list of invoices attached to court documents shows transactions for varying amounts of money ranging from July 2020 to August 2022.

A conciliation hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Oct. 19.

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Another lawsuit from May 2021 alleges Bushaw and his business The Diner on Main LLC did not pay Reinhart FoodService LLC, a wholesale grocery distributor, for $20,234.04 worth of merchandise for his restaurants. The Diner on Main LLC was registered under Bushaw’s name as a South Dakota business. Before opening Joe’s Diner in East Grand Forks, he owned a Joe’s Diner location in Webster, South Dakota. Originally, the restaurant was called The Diner on Main.

Bushaw was given 21 days to respond to the lawsuit in writing, but did not answer. Because he never responded, Reinhart FoodService won the lawsuit by default. Bushaw says the fees from this lawsuit have been paid off for around a year and a half.

In the post announcing the closure of his Minnesota and North Dakota restaurants, Bushaw cited economic and social reasons for closing.

“We have tried so, so, so very hard to make it work, but with this economy of rising costs, families hardly being able to make ends meet, supply chain issues, as well as the boldness of the social media keyboard warriors, we had a decision to make,” wrote Bushaw.

People in the community “focused a ton of hate” toward his businesses, wrote Bushaw.

“It caused a lot of unnecessary stress for myself, but more importantly, for my employees who always felt like they had to battle the constant bullying, the false reviews, people harassing them for where they worked, and the overall negative impact that it had even on my customers,” wrote Bushaw.

Hundreds of people reacted, commented and shared the Facebook announcement.

Bushaw told the Herald the decision to close the restaurants was also partly for his own mental health.

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“It’s just a very stressful time and I’m only 21 and there are way bigger and better things out there,” Bushaw.

He says he has plans for the future, but is not ready to talk about them yet.

Bushaw was in the news in December 2020 when he opened his restaurant for dine-in service in defiance of a Minnesota executive order requiring Minnesota bars and restaurants to close for dine-in service to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order to Joe’s Diner and two other restaurants that opened. On Dec. 24, Bushaw received notice that the diner’s food and beverage license would be suspended for 60 days.

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He is facing one felony charge and one misdemeanor for the incident. His initial appearance is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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