Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Renovated Whitey's reopens

Sporting a "crisp, clean" new look after an extensive renovation, Whitey's is now open, the historic downtown East Grand Forks restaurant's new owner said Monday.

Patrons of Whitey's return Monday as the historic bar and restaurant reopens in East Grand Forks. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Sporting a "crisp, clean" new look after an extensive renovation, Whitey's is now open, the historic downtown East Grand Forks restaurant's new owner said Monday.

Tim Bjerk, 36, bought the local landmark at an auction in May after it went out of business in February. He put on a soft opening Sunday night.

"It feels good and it's a relief to get people in here to enjoy what we've been creating over the last few months," he said.

Renovations began in July.

Bjerk meant to open in September but said he ran into some remodeling issues that made the project take longer than expected.


Whitey's has been open since 1925. It started under the ownership of Edwin "Whitey" Larson, a larger than life figure who died in 1992. A former employee Greg Stennes bought it in 1973. The 1997 flood caused enough damage to force the restaurant to move a block down the street.

Dave Norman bought the place in June 2010, but ownership of the building stayed with Stennes, who then sold it to Bjerk.

Old and new

For Bjerk, Whitey's is a "much larger scale" operation than Gene's Bar & Grill in Roseau, Minn., a restaurant he and his wife, Kristi, have operated since 2000.

"At home, we had a bar and grill," he said. "This is way different."

Whitey's now has about 60 employees.

Nearly everything in the restaurant is new, according to Bjerk. That includes new booths and tables, new walls with tan paint and a more open, streamlined interior than the restaurant had when it closed.

A game room, complete with the Whitey's shuffleboard, a pool table and a jukebox, has replaced seating along DeMers Avenue adjacent to the bar.


But Bjerk said his goal was to create a mix of the old Whitey's nostalgia with a fresh look.

He kept the famous Wonderbar, the first stainless steel horseshoe bar in the nation that's been a part of the restaurant since 1930.

Bjerk used the former side bar to add a back piece to the Wonderbar and also removed a wall to open up the area surrounding the bar.

"That bar piece was actually in the building, so we resurrected that too," he said. "When it was built back in the 1930s we assume that the same woodworker did both because they did the same fine detail. It already matched so we just had to refinish it."

The comeback

Bjerk said the restaurant will now focus on its customer service. His goal, he said, is to help Whitey's "come back to be a popular, friendly hangout" like it has been in the past.

The menu features both bar and grill fare and "comfortable yet tasteful" entrees, as well as a full drink selection. Menu items include former Whitey's offerings as well as some new items that were available at Gene's Bar & Grill, such as its burgers and signature recipes.

"It's a place for your average blue collar worker to come up and get a beer, and it's a comfortable place to meet friends," he said.


Whitey's opens for business at 11 a.m. seven days a week.

Johnson reports on local business. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Get Local