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Dave Olson, Published January 08 2014

Former Moorhead Bennigan's new home for Grizzly's restaurant

MOORHEAD – Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern in Moorhead and Grizzly’s Grill and Saloon in Fargo’s West Acres mall closed within days of each other in May 2012.

The Bennigan’s building at 3333 Highway 10 E. has been empty ever since, but that will soon change.

A Grizzly’s Wood Fire Grill plans to open in the space this spring, perhaps by April, said Steve Letnes, CEO of Letnes Restaurant Group, a company based in Waite Park, Minn., that operates 14 Grizzly’s locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

The North Dakota restaurants are in Jamestown, Bismarck and Minot.

Letnes, who operates Letnes Restaurant Group with his brother, Curt, said they pulled their Grizzly’s out of West Acres after about 10 years in the mall as part of a new focus on using free-standing buildings for their restaurants.

He said the company is also switching from its long-held grill and saloon concept to wood fire grills.

Letnes said they picked Moorhead as a location for a number of reasons.

“We felt Moorhead was underserviced, as far as restaurants go,” he said, adding that Moorhead’s college population will provide both customers and staff for the business, which will likely employ about 60 people, most of them part time.

Grizzly’s is in the process of purchasing the Bennigan’s building and securing a liquor license from the city.

It is also likely to get a property tax break, said Matt Maslowski, economic development director for Moorhead. The city has offered Grizzly’s a tax break that would apply – for a period of time – to the new value the project creates, he said.

Letnes, who grew up in Hillsboro, N.D., and graduated from North Dakota State University, said Grizzly’s welcomes the tax incentive, but it wasn’t the main reason the company chose Moorhead.

“It’s an opportunity for us to do some pretty major investing, and we’re happy that that (tax incentive) opportunity is there,” he said.

Maslowski said the city is also happy.

“It’s very exciting for us,” he said.

Letnes said it will take time to remodel the former Bennigan’s space. When the project is done, there will be a large rotisserie greeting patrons.

“We’ll be roasting whole chickens and pork shoulders and prime rib and beef brisket,” he said, listing some of the menu items.

“We’re going to have about 40 craft beers on tap, and we’re going to have lots of big screens for sports watching.

“But our main focus has always been and always will be our food,” Letnes said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555