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City Council sets deadline for John's Supper Club repairs

The closed John's Supper Club building located on the corner of Benson Avenue and 3rd Street in downtown Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Paul Kidrowski says he will move forward with repairing the fire-damaged John's Supper Club building that he and his wife Trudy own in downtown Willmar.

Kidrowski said he would like to have the blessing of the city behind him.

"We look forward to working with the city of Willmar and its staff,'' Kidrowski said in an interview Wednesday.

The City Council this week gave the Kidrowskis 45 days to provide new structural and architectural drawings rather than order the building at Third Street and Benson Avenue Southwest be demolished, and the city has ordered all drawings be prepared and work be done with a new building permit under the 2007 building code.

Kidrowski, who operates Paul's Electric of Willmar, said he's waiting for the city to help him understand what the building code requires. Kidrowski said he's working with an architect to see how he can comply and make repairs.

Kidrowski said his sons will be taking over his electric business and they hope to have their offices in the building. Kidrowski said he's attempted to make repairs over the years but was limited due to the large number of hours he worked in his electrical business.

"I think it's a beautiful building,'' Kidrowski said. "It's got a lot of memories from people gone by. It's got a lot of character that a lot of new buildings don't have.''

The council voted Monday night to defer demolition and ordered the Kidrowskis to take steps to repair the two-story building that fire extensively damaged 18 years ago.

City staff sent a letter to the Kidrowskis in August, asking them to repair the building or demolish it. City staff said the building is vacant and unsecured and is unsafe due to structural issues and inadequate egress.

Staff recommended the building be declared unsafe and be removed. The council's Community Development Committee discussed the building Oct. 1 and approved a motion by member Steve Ahmann to grant the deferral.

Ahmann said Kidrowski has put some money into repairs, but said he knows progress has been slow and painful.

"We've waited this long. I thought 45 more days would put the ball in his court to make a good-faith effort to finally make some big decisions and forward progress on the building,'' said Ahmann.

Council member Doug Reese said he does not want to see the building demolished but would like to see some progress. He remembers similar discussion many years ago and asked if the Kidrowskis were under any other deadlines.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said a building permit typically requires that work be started within one year and that substantial progress be demonstrated every six months. Peterson said the council could void the building permit and make the owners repeat the process if the owners are not making progress.

"That's where we've run afoul of things in the past,'' said Peterson. "The property owners have not demonstrated any consistent effort to completing any of the work. In the past, there are a lot of things they claim to have done that may have been done, but they weren't either included under building permits or there were no inspections called for. We're really starting from a blank slate with this building as far as I'm concerned.''

The longtime downtown building dates back to the late 1800s and has had a number of uses. An old photo said the building was used as a furniture store in 1895. The main-floor restaurant, opened as Coffee John's on Sept. 8, 1933, had gone through numerous ownership changes, according to Tribune archives.

Three people were injured and five were treated for smoke inhalation in the early morning fire on May 15, 1991. The fire started in an upstairs apartment and caused extensive damage to the seven second-floor apartments. All seven apartment occupants escaped.

In July 1993, a former Willmar man pleaded guilty to first-degree arson in connection with the fire and was sentenced to serve 5½ years in prison.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150