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Erik Burgess, Published May 15 2013

Fort Noks bar owner says lot will be paved

FARGO – The downtown bar owner in legal trouble with the city over his gravel parking lot says he plans to pave the lot early this summer.

Rick Engen, owner of Fort Noks Bar of Gold at 52 Broadway, told the city’s Liquor Control Board on Wednesday that he submitted a building permit application to the city earlier in the day with plans to expand his patio and turn the gravel parking lot into concrete.

The city filed a civil lawsuit in November against Engen’s business entity, 52 Broadway LLC, arguing that his unlit, unfenced gravel lot violates city standards.

The city was planning to block Engen’s request to expand the Fort Noks patio until the lot was brought up to city code. Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour has said the city wants to see development of the parking lot, which is along a stretch of Broadway in the city’s downtown core.

Engen told the liquor board, a five-person advisory committee to the City Commission, that he has applied for a community development block grant to help pay for the project.

The city caps those grants at $15,000. While they can’t be used to pave a parking lot, they can be used for decorative work.

“I believe we will get approved for that (grant) to support lighting, railing and any ornamental work,” Engen said.

Engen plans to extend the bar’s patio 12 feet north into the empty lot, which he said is included in the building permit application he submitted. He applied for an expanded liquor license in order to serve liquor on the extended patio space.

The liquor board voted 4-0 to recommend that the City Commission grant that extension, contingent on “zoning (and) planning site improvements of the patio and the adjacent lot.”

Mayor Dennis Walaker, who serves on the board, was absent.

In making the motion, Police Chief Keith Ternes said he had no concerns granting an expanded liquor license, but he wanted to be sure the other issues with the city were first resolved.

Gilmour, who hadn’t seen Engen’s latest proposal, said it’ll likely be another week before the city can look at the plans.

“Since this is subject to a lawsuit, I’m going to have to talk to our attorney about whether or not we would actually issue any building permit,” he said.

Ron McLean, an outside attorney hired by the city to resolve the matter, was out of the office Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

City Attorney Erik Johnson wasn’t familiar with the details but said he is encouraged by Engen’s proposal.

“There is a pending lawsuit that contains a number of issues that will still need to be worked out, perhaps on both sides,” Johnson said.

Engen said work on the patio and parking lot, if approved, would take about a week and a half to complete and could be done before the Downtown Street Fair on July 18-20.

The City Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue at its next meeting on May 28.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518