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Published February 09, 2011, 12:20 AM

Historic East Grand Forks Eatery, Whitey's Wonderbar, Closes Its Doors

A long-time East Grand Forks restaurant is shutting its doors. A group of investors that purchased East Grand Fork's historic Whitey's restaurant in June has defaulted and closed the restaurant, according to former owner Greg Stennes.

A group of investors that purchased East Grand Fork's historic Whitey's restaurant in June has defaulted and closed the restaurant, according to former owner Greg Stennes. The group rents the Whitey's building from Stennes. He tells WDAZ the group has not been able to make lease payments and closed Tuesday.

Stennes confirmed that the new group that runs Whitey's Prime Steaks And Seafood has gone out of business. Stennes says once the group couldn't make financial requirements of the lease and agreement the business defaulted back to Stennes. Whitey's employees tell WDAZ they were called Tuesday before their shifts and told the business was closed and they were out of work.

Employees like 23-year-old Breanne Dronen will miss the long-time East Grand Forks eatery. "We're all friends, and we've all worked together for a long time and yes, we're upset," Dronen said. A waitress for 1 1/2 years, Dronen doesn't hold a grudge for her lost job.

"Whitey's was a really great place to work, and it was a really great environment. We had some hints, though, that it would be closed down today," Dronen said. "It will forever live in history as an awesome place and you can't have any other place like Whitey's."

In June, the 85-year-old business changed hands.

Greg Stennes and a group that bought the bar from Edwin Larson or "Whitey" back in the 1970s sold the bar to a group of investors led by Dave Norman. Norman's group changed the name to "Whitey's Prime Steak and Seafood."

In recent months, the restaurant cut back hours and would often close early, sparking rumors it was closing for good.

According to a Fargo Forum article on Norman from 2008, Norman is the former owner of the Fireside restaurant in Detroit Lakes, Minn. and was also involved in Normans Prime Steaks & Seafood in Fargo.

WDAZ could not reach Dave Norman Tuesday night for comment.

Stennes says he hopes this isn't the end for Whitey's.

"I'm retired and we have had some other possibilities of getting another reputable group to come in and run the restaurant perhaps," Stennes says. "Whiteys is part of the community so we will try to do what we can do to make it work."

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