Imran Khan’s longtime vision of a drinking establishment in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood briefly came to fruition in February. Then the COVID-19 shutdown happened.
Since late August, Khan has described the status of his business as “partially open,” though the doors have generally been locked. Those hoping to try out the Golden Bulldog will need to wait while the search for a bar manager continues.
Khan, a developer based in Saint Paul, said his ambition is to create a community-focused bar in the heart of Duluth. The location is a two-story brick building at 318 N. 18th Ave. E., about a half mile from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Khan purchased the building from Hawk Ridge Church of Christ for $62,500 in June 2010, according to St. Louis County records. The building was constructed in 1912 and was originally a grocery store.
Waiting out the pandemic lockdown mere weeks after opening was not a welcome chapter in the Golden Bulldog’s story, but Khan said his decade-long journey of getting the bar running made any business time lost seem like a minor obstacle.
“Well, again, it’s been a ten-year process,” Khan explained. “I’ve had that burden without being able to develop it for that long so I know what it’s like to be losing constantly with a business. So it does add a few more months, but to ten years of losses.”
Khan said the initial barrier to opening the bar was dealing with building codes and zoning issues.
“All sorts of weird stuff,” he said. “(It) usually doesn’t take 10 years for a small business start, but somehow (it did) for me. I kind of just laugh about it and move on.”
Khan said complications with his parking lot and sorting out issues with neighbors were at the top of his list of obstacles. Another challenge included a lack of community interest in Khan’s original plans for a cooperative-style business and perceptions of the crowd he would be looking to bring in.
“Just getting beer and wine has been crazy,” Khan said. “Like, during those meetings, neighborhood meetings, I kept saying, it’s just beer and wine. It’s like they thought people are going to be running in yards and going up and like … if you think that, you don’t know who I am. Why are you saying this? And again, it’s just beer and wine. We’re not getting drunk.”
As the quest to reopen continues, Khan said finding the right manager is important.
“I’ve learned that if I’m not the face of the company (it) does a lot better,” Khan said.
Part of Khan’s co-op model included plans for a membership system in which patrons could pay a sum of money up front and receive ongoing benefits such as free beer and food on specific days or even board-of-directors positions with authority to make business decisions. Khan said those plans have been slowed due to a lack of interest, but he is still considering it, along with other approaches.
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