Pour one out for Whitey's in East Grand Forks.
The bar and restaurant that thrived during Prohibition is closing, and will be turned into a Sickies Garage – a North Dakota-based burger and beer chain.
The restaurant group will renovate Whitey's, but says it'll incorporate the historical, art-deco architecture of the space, noting it'll "merge design elements seamlessly" into the Sickies "retro garage-themed appearance."
Scott Upton of Starmark Hospitality (it owns Sickies) told the Grand Forks Herald they're also looking at options to keep Whitey's in the basement of the building and are trying to incorporate the Whitey's name into the concept, but "how we do that, we haven't decided yet."
Whitey's will close on Friday, the Grand Forks Herald reports, and will reopen in November as Sickies, the restaurant says. The Grand Forks Sickies location will stay open until renovations at Whitey's are finished.
More about Whitey's
Whitey's website says it's East Grand Fork's "lone survivor from the days of the one-armed bandits and two-fisted drinking."
And that's quite a claim, because in the early 1900s East Grand Forks was known as a "saloon town" with a lot of lawlessness and a vibrant liquor trade.
That's where 19-year-old Edwin "Whitey" Larson comes in. He wanted in on the action, so in 1925 (during Prohibition), he opened the Coney Island Lunch Room. The joint – located about a block from the current Whitey's – featured bootleg booze, slot machines and Coney hotdogs.
After a few successful years, Whitey bought the building on DeMers Avenue (Whitey's current location), and built the first stainless steel horseshoe bar in the U.S. in 1930.
The bar was called Whitey's Wonderbar, where people could play slot machines and dice games. And it became known for its art-deco style, with Whitey's website saying it's one of the best examples of this type of architecture in the country.
Over the years, Whitey's shifted it's focus from illegal gaming (officials were cracking down on it) to food – which has helped make the location famous – and changed its name to Whitey's Cafe and Lounge.