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Erik Burgess, Published May 28 2013

City’s suit against Fort Noks owner ‘resolved’

FARGO – The city’s lawsuit with a downtown bar owner over his gravel parking lot was “effectively resolved” on Tuesday night, according to the city attorney.

The City Commission on Tuesday approved a plan for Rick Engen, owner of Fort Noks Bar of Gold at 52 Broadway, to both expand his patio and fix up his gravel parking lot within the next few weeks.

In November, the city filed a civil lawsuit, arguing that Engen’s unfenced, unlit gravel parking lot violated city code, and the city also wanted to see some development on that lot as promised by Engen when he acquired the land over a decade ago.

Earlier this month, Engen applied for an extension of his liquor license so he could serve alcohol on a proposed patio expansion, and the city had planned to block the expansion until Engen fixed up his parking lot.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Brad Wimmer made a motion to conditionally approve the liquor license extension, contingent on Engen first completing the patio and parking lot project and bringing the parking lot up to code.

After some discussion, it was passed unanimously by the City Commission, which City Attorney Erik Johnson said “effectively resolved” the lawsuit.

Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour told the commissioners he has received building permit applications from Engen to both expand the bar’s patio about 12 feet into the adjacent lot and to turn the gravel parking lot into a concrete lot with lighting and fencing.

“It appears that those (projects) are in compliance with the land development code,” Gilmour said.

Gilmour said he wants to approve the permit for both the patio and the lot at the same time, but he asked that the liquor license not be extended until the lot is done.

“If the patio’s finished first, he’s not going to be able to serve liquor on the patio until the parking lot’s also completed,”

Gilmour said.

Johnson noted that one piece of the lawsuit was technically not resolved. The city alleged in its lawsuit that Engen promised development – not a parking lot – on the site, which is along a stretch of Broadway in the city’s downtown core.

In response to Johnson, Engen told commissioners that the land development code and downtown mixed-use zoning allow him to build solely a parking lot.

In making the motion, Wimmer said that he believed Engen’s plan at least satisfied the city’s desire to “beautify” the site.

“Hopefully that (development) will happen in the future,” Wimmer said.

Engen said he plans to start his project soon, so that it runs in conjunction with the city’s closure of the Broadway and NP Avenue intersection.

He said the work should take about a week and a half to complete.

Fargo OKs liquor license exception for Billiards on Broadway owner

FARGO – The City Commission here unanimously approved on Tuesday night a six-month liquor license exception for Marc Oelslager, owner of the former downtown pool hall Billiards on Broadway.

Oelslager has said that he plans to reopen his pool hall in the American Legion building at 505 3rd Ave. N., maybe in the next six months, but a lease hasn’t been finalized.

Oelslager needed a city-approved exception for his liquor license after Billiards on Broadway closed in late 2011, but City Auditor Steve Sprague said an oversight on his part allowed Oelslager to keep his license.

Oelslager kept up on payments and will still need to file for a liquor license transfer if he secures a new lease, Sprague said.

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