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Developer looks to open co-op restaurant in Duluth

Imran Khan of St. Paul stands in the building at 18th Avenue East above 3rd Street that he hopes to convert into a non-profit restaurant. At left, Jim Jensen cleans the windows in the front entrance. If all goes smoothly, Khan hopes to open in 3-6 months. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com1 / 3
Jim Jensen, a friend of Imran Khan,cleans windows in the front entrance of the building Khan hopes to turn into a restaurant. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com2 / 3
The second floor of the building that will become The Golden Buildog, what Imran Khan hopes to be a non-profit restaurant. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com3 / 3

As he tries to build support and sell memberships for a co-op style restaurant in Duluth's Endion neighborhood, Imran Khan may have said the magic words: Free beer.

"For $250, every burger basket comes with a free pint of beer," said the Saint Paul developer. "For $100, you get 10 percent off. ... I have the ideas, I just need the community to be a part."

Khan's idea is to open the Golden Bulldog restaurant in a long-vacant commercial property tucked inside a dense residential area at 318 N. 18th Ave. E.

"I want quality, simple, affordable food for the residents in the neighborhood," he said as he walked among the exposed bricks and wood floors of the 104-year-old building that formerly housed a deli and a church. "This would be unique to Duluth. My idea was to bring Juicy Lucys, all iPad ordering, no cash and have it as a nonprofit restaurant."

Imran Khan, stands in front of the building that he hopes to convert into a non-profit restaurant. Khan has dreams of replicating the give-back-to-the-community values of the recently opened Seward Co-op Creamery Cafe in Minneapolis — though with locally sourced burgers, sandwiches, beer and wine as the mainstays of the neighborhood joint. Some of the Golden Bulldog's proceeds would benefit the local hospitals and efforts to get children more active outdoors.

With food coming out of the basement, there would be seating for 18 on the main floor and 44 on the top floor — which could someday include a retractable glass roof, rooftop seating and a 200-square-foot expansion in the alley. But Khan said all things depend on funding.

The 39-year-old bought the building in 2010 for $62,500 and has been working on his vision with the city since that time, encountering a few hiccups in a zoning change and parking easement. He said he can finance the restaurant through Members Cooperative Credit Union if he can raise $75,000.

"With funding, it could be three to six months away," Khan said, and some of the loftier expansion and rooftop goals might come later depending on costs. He expects the startup costs to be above $200,000.

Along with the aforementioned entry-level memberships and their perks, Khan is offering those who pledge $500 the free beer with a burger plus free breakfast every Tuesday; $1,000 gets all that and kids-eat-free Sundays; and $5,000 gets all the goods and a seat on the board of the restaurant with the power to shape policies, menus, pay and more.

Everything is preliminary at this point as ideas start to turn into action, though Khan's excitement for what it could bring the community was visible as the sun found its way into the old storefront.

"I'm looking to see a great space put to use," he said, and it will come together "if I get a team of people doing different components."

Khan, a big-time hockey fan, is also working on a restaurant in the Cities he's calling the Fighting Soo, a mashup of the old University of North Dakota nickname and the regional railroad.

For the Golden Bulldog, Khan even proposed a Sandelin burger, a tip of the hat to University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey coach Scott Sandelin.

"If Sandelin came in, he'd get free meals if he'd give my kid a couple of extra looks," said Khan, who said his friends call him "Pakistani Gretzky" on the ice.

Though the two projects are his first foray into restaurants, Khan has experience in commercial real estate and redevelopment.

If the restaurant doesn't come together, Khan's backup plan is to convert the Golden Bulldog space into a mosque — Khan isn't religious, but the designation would allow the property to be tax-exempt.

But there could be enough hungry Duluthians in town — not to mention more than 60 rental units in the immediate area — to make the Bulldog shine.

"I want it to be $10 or less for a burger, fries and a beer," Khan said. "I know everyone in the neighborhood wants something like that there; I just want a group of people to come out and help."

To learn more

To get involved with the Golden Bulldog co-op restaurant proposal, still in very early stages, contact Imran Khan at gbulldogduluth@gmail.com.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks covers business and the economy for the Duluth News Tribune.

(218) 723-5329
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