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Mike Nowatzki, Published January 18 2009

Plans for beer bar in downtown Fargo put on hold

Beer enthusiasts hoping to kick off 2009 by sampling some specialty brews at a new downtown Fargo beer bar will have to put their palates on pause until this summer.

Fargo businessman Randy Thorson said he hoped to open J.L. Beers by the end of 2008. But the heating and cooling system in the vacant space at 518 1st Ave. N., next to First & Deli, was about 50 years old and needed to be replaced, he said.

By the time that was done, the weather was so cold that a decision was made to delay interior demolition, he said.

“I think it would just be a hardship for the deli business that’s in there for us to have the doors open as cold as it is,” Thorson said.

The bar will take up about 1,000 square feet of the ground floor of the 101-year-old, red-brick building at 514 to 520 1st Ave. N. Thorson and Warren Ackley, his partner in Global Development LLC, bought the building last summer.

Thorson said the bar will offer on-sale and off-sale specialty beers. The setup will be one long bar with stools and a couple of tables, he said.

“It’s really meant for people to come in, have a couple beers and continually rotate people in and out,” he said.

Thorson named the bar J.L. Beers in honor of his friend Jim Lauerman, who owned Lauerman’s Chili, Sandwiches & Beer from 1982 until his death in 2004. The downtown bar closed in September 2007.

Remodeling will begin in March if the weather cooperates, Thorson said.

Currently, the women’s and men’s bathrooms are split between the deli and the bar area, and the remodeling will involve putting both bathrooms on the bar side so that customers don’t have to venture into the deli side after hours, Thorson said.

The current economic climate didn’t play a role in the delay, he said. The architectural drawings for the bar are completed, and the project has already been bid, he added.

“I think there’s always so much opportunity, and that’s what I see now,” he said.

City Auditor Steve Sprague said the delay won’t affect the beer-only Class CD liquor license that Thorson acquired in 2007 from the former owner of the Just One bar.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528