Melsas relieved, excited; they eye spring opening.

    After months of what Brent Melsa called "lots of highs and lows and ups and downs," he and his wife, Jasmine, on Monday officially closed the deal on the financing necessary to make Drafts Sports Bar & Grill a reality just east of Crookston Sports Center. Brent told the Times Tuesday that the contractor, DeBoer Builders of Crookston, hopes to break ground later this month in anticipation of an opening in the spring.

    "We're very excited, obviously. We're very happy to finally have this accomplished," Brent said. "There were times where we seriously thought, 'Gosh, is this going to happen?' But we've learned a lot through this process and now we're really psyched and ready to get rolling."

    The Melsas bought a parcel from the City of Crookston next to the CSC earlier this year with the intention of building their sports bar and grill, which will also feature an off-sale. The sale spurred the city to fast-track the extension of underground utilities to the lot, a project that Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates engineer Rich Clauson told the Crookston City Council Monday evening is a week or two from being finished. The Melsas' initial goal was to have construction well underway by now and open by year's end, but cutting through all the necessary red tape with the Small Business Administration and all the other entities necessary to bring the deal together took longer than anticipated.

    "Closing the loan yesterday at Bremer, that made for a very good day," Brent said.

The plan
    Nothing major has changed since the Melsas first went public with their plans. The business will feature a full-service bar and full-service dining area, as well as the off-sale. After they get established, Brent said they're planning to have an outdoor patio. "We've also purchased 50 feet of extra space in the back of the property to potentially do some outdoor events, like live bands or something," he explained.

    With more activity on the north end and more activity, specifically, at the CSC, Brent said he and his wife and their investors are excited about the location of the business, and believe the time is right for another dining and entertainment option in Crookston.

    "Talking with people in the community, it seems like people are ready for another restaurant to join the restaurants that are already here and doing just fine," Brent said. "It's just another venue for people to go to, whether they're Crookston residents or people coming to town for an event at the sports center or some other activity."

    The Melsas are also excited to show off their executive chef, Ryan Storey, who's also a part owner of Drafts. Storey, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, has already sort of made a name for himself in Crookston in recent months, with his Drafts ribs taking second place in the Rib Fest at the American Legion in August. Then, at last week's United Way Soup & Chili Cook-off and Chocolate Extravaganza, Storey's Drafts chili tied for first in the professional division/judges' choice and also tied for first as the people's choice.

    "He's very qualified with lots of excellent experience," Brent said. "Ryan knows his way around a kitchen, let's put it that way."