CLOQUET CITY COUNCIL: City helps new restaurant

Residents will be happy to know that the Avenue C restaurant in the First National Plaza is planning to open in June. The restaurant will be located in Cloquet's West End Historic District at 207 Avenue C.

Residents will be happy to know that the Avenue C restaurant in the First National Plaza is planning to open in June. The restaurant will be located in Cloquet’s West End Historic District at 207 Avenue C.

Doug Smith, owner of the Duluth Green Mill and former owner of McKenzie’s in Hermantown, was present at Tuesday’s Cloquet City Council meeting along with  Zach Wehr (First National Plaza building owner) to answer any questions the council members had.

Originally slated to open in November, money has been an issue. Smith requested $75,000 in gap loan financing from the city in November which was approved by the EDA in December to fund leasehold improvements. Community Development Director Holly Butcher explained that the city has remained in a holding pattern since that time, awaiting the approval of primary bank financing after the original bank was purchased. According to the staff report, the total restaurant investment into the building is $632,600, with $411,600 from the primary lender NBC Bank, plus the gap financing from the city and personal equity/investments. Renovations of the building are nearly complete.  

“The project investment is significant to the West End Historic District and we look forward to their opening,” Butcher said.

During the Cloquet City Council work session, the hot topic was rental housing ordinances. Cloquet currently has 1,400 rental units.


A rental housing task force was created in 2014. Landlords, tenants and residents worked together on the force to decide where to go with the newly formed group. After researching what other communities had done, they decided to focus on the health and safety of tenants.

The task force decided to begin by having all rental property owners register their properties. There are no fees at this point, but probably will be in the future. At this time inspections on a rental property are only done when there is a complaint.

According to Al Cottingham, city planner/zoning administrator, there are only 12 complaints a year and usually after a tenant was evicted by the landlord as a form of retaliation.

To date the inspections have found that all of the minimum health and safety measures in the rental units have been met.

Cottingham clarified that the registration is for each unit, not property.

Group homes are exempt from the registration as they are licensed by the state.

Down the road, the task force has plans to have all rental properties registered yearly with a fee and inspections done in a cycle, so only a few properties are inspected one year and another group the following year.

There are other ideas, but the council members agreed that the task force should proceed with baby steps.


In other council business,

  • The council moved to approve a preliminary site plan for Commonwealth Development Corporation on behalf of Cloquet Housing and Redevelopment Authority for a 35-unit, three-story apartment building to be built north of the HRA’s Aspen Arms building on 14th Street if funding is approved at the state and federal level. They also passed a resolution expressing support of the HRA project.

  • Assistant City Engineer Caleb Peterson was approved for a one-year probationary appointment as city engineer/director of public works as of June 6. Current Director of Public Works/City Engineer Jim Prusak is retiring June 3.

  • City staff recommended an upgrade to the security system at City Hall that was installed in 1990. Because of the system’s age, parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find for repairs. Per Mar Security, which installed the current system, gave a bid of $24,925 for the update work. The council accepted the proposal.
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