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Boreal Community Media

Local restaurant still past due on county loan

Feb 05, 2019 09:27AM ● By Editor
Birch Terrace Supper Club in Grand Marais.  Photo by Joe Friedrichs.  Story by Joe Friedrichs of WTIP Radio - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 8:39am

While speaking directly to members of the Cook County Revolving Loan Committee in October 2018, the owners of the Birch Terrace Supper Club in Grand Marais vowed to pay off their unfilled debt.

According to Cook County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, there have been no payments on the loan since the promise was made.

The amount still owed on the Birch Terrace loan is more than $56,000.

The owners of Birch Terrace, Dave and Brian Larsen, fell behind on payments to the county’s revolving loan fund and have not made a payment in nearly three years, a fact that raised concern among the Cook County Board of Commissioners dating back to February 2018.

Powers told WTIP this week that during the October meeting of the Revolving Loan Committee, the owners of Birch Terrace said it was their intention to pay off the loan soon.

“We gave them 30 days to find out if they had the means to pay off the loan,” Powers said in a statement sent to WTIP on Feb. 4.

More than 90 days have now passed since the October meeting of the Revolving Loan Committee.

According to Powers, the owners of Birch Terrace were notified that the issue of their unsettled debt will be discussed again at the county board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12. That meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. in the commissioners’ room at the Cook County Courthouse.

Powers previously said the first action for the unpaid debt to the revolving loan fund is a financial penalty of 10 percent for late payments.

“They’re way past that,” Powers said of the late payments from the owners of Birch Terrace.

After late-fee penalties are implemented, the county can take legal action against the parties in violation, Powers said.  The action could be to force someone into bankruptcy, he added.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners have publicly expressed concern that late payments or failure to pay back county loans in this program can have negative impacts for the county, including the ability to provide funding support for local entrepreneurs. It can also have a negative impact on the county budget, according to conversations that took place in 2018 in a public meeting of the county board.

To resolve the issue, a request in October 2018 from local resident Evelyn Larsen focused on the county accepting a parcel of land in exchange for debt owed on the Birch Terrace Supper Club.

Evelyn Larsen is the mother of the Larsen brothers. The house of Brian Larsen was collateral for the loan provided by the county.

The assessed value of the land Larsen offered the county to pay off the loan and keep her son’s house in his possession is worth approximately $45,000, according to Powers. The land Larsen was putting up to fulfill the debt is located near County Road 60.

Commissioner Myron Bursheim, who also serves on the revolving loan committee, previously told WTIP a situation such as the one presented by Birch Terrace could ultimately cost local taxpayers money. Should the county attorney’s office need to take action is one means of costing taxpayer dollars, Bursheim explained.