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Ryan Bakken, Forum Communications Co., Published March 27 2012

Drayton ponies up $250,000 for restaurant

DRAYTON, N.D. – Common wisdom is that a town is lost once its school closes.

But Pete Anderson, president of both the local KodaBank and the town’s economic development board, sees it differently.

“I think it’s more like if you don’t have a restaurant, you’re not a town, because then you don’t have a social gathering place,” he said.

This Pembina County town of 824 hasn’t had a restaurant since last fall. Even then, the now defunct Route 44 Café had seating for only about 30 customers and a limited menu.

But Anderson, lumberyard owner Mike Green and other economic development leaders are optimistic that will change by summer. They’re betting $250,000 on it.

That’s how much the economic development board is spending to build a restaurant inside a city-owned building. They’re hoping to find a renter by June 1, when construction should be complete.

“We’re building it on the premise that if we build it, they will come,” Green said.

On one hand, the timing is good, because it won’t be competing with an existing eatery. On the other hand, union workers are still locked out at the American Crystal Sugar plant, Drayton’s top employer, meaning some economic uncertainty.

“It’s not perfect timing, but we can’t wait for that day,” Anderson said.

Added Green, “The beet plant will keep going. It will be settled one way or the other.”

The restaurant will have seating for 115, plus an overflow room available for community events. The hope is for full-service evening dining. Kim Holmes, owner of the Sanders 1907 restaurant in Grand Forks, is a consultant on the project.

“We’ve never had control over restaurants before,” Green said. “They’d come and go.”

A restaurant is crucial to draw traffic off I-29, business leaders say. It also should help to keep tourists in local motels, as catfishing on the Red River near Drayton has become an attraction.

The city-owned building, acquired with FEMA money awarded after the 1997 flood, is also home to Altru Clinic, an optometrist, physical therapist, chiropractor, fitness center and drug store. It is located on the town’s northern edge, about a quarter-mile east of the interstate.

Ryan Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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