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Published February 09, 2011, 07:35 PM

Former Owner, Employees React to Closing of EGF Landmark Whitey's

Some people are surprised, some say they saw it coming. Whitey's managers say they had to shut their doors because there just wasn't enough business.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Some people are surprised, some say they saw it coming. Whitey's managers say they had to shut their doors because there just wasn't enough business.

Dave Norman, whose management group took over the operation of the bar and restaurant about nine months months ago, says the bar was struggling then and the changes they made didn't work.

One employee, Collleen Bushy, has worn a lot of hats in her 41 years at Whitey's. That ended Tuesday when, after 85 years, the landmark East Grand Forks restaurant closed its doors.

"I was hoping and praying. I've never prayed so much in my life as much as the last six months. But I was hoping and praying that things would come around and it just got worse as it went along. The business just dropped off terribly," Bushy said.

Norman's management group took over the operation of the bar and restaurant last summer. He says business at Whitey's was already hurting at that time.

"We knew that wasn't working. So we thought we would take it in a different direction with the steaks and seafood," Norman said.

Norman says unfortunately that did not work and Whitey's was forced to close.

"We put our money where our mouth was and went out and gave it an attempt and our best effort. Our employees worked hard. We love the nostalgia of the place. But it was just too much to overcome the reputation that it had earned over the last few years," Norman said.

The landlord and former owner of Whitey's, Greg Stennes, was in the bar Wednesday to clean up. He says after the Norman's management group couldn't keep up with their bills, an eviction process began, but that action became unnecessary Tuesday.

"We had some issues going into this point, to get to this point. It was a relief, to be honest," Stennes said.

About 33 Whitey's employee are out of a job, including Bushy, who for the first time since 1970, will not be working there.

"I wish I could retire. I'm going to have to look for a job or something," Bushy said.

Stennes says he hopes this isn't the end for Whitey's and that he already knows of those who might be interested in the business.

One restaurant owner near Whitey's says he is not surprised to see it close.

Blue Moose owner David Homstad didn't think that Whitey's had the customers to stay open, and that is was only a matter of time before the business ended.

Homstad is confident the restaurant will open again soon.

"It's disappointing, for one thing. Whitey's is an icon in this community, and I really would like to see it continue. It really would help the area to have another strong restaurant in the area," Homstad said.

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