Pure Taqueria may locate next to Red Clay Theatre

DULUTH — The Duluth City Council during work session Monday directed its Downtown Development Authority to pursue locating a Pure Taqueria restaurant next to the Red Clay Theatre downtown.

The restaurant would provide a boost to the city’s economy, but it would require plans for the theater to be scaled down.

The council authorized the DDA to negotiate the sale or lease of part of the vacant property at the end of the theater for a new Pure Taqueria franchise.

The franchise partners determined that the cost of converting the existing Burrell Building into a functioning restaurant would not be as cost effective as constructing a new building, according to the city’s Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee. So they approached the city about building the restaurant on the theatre property.

The Pure Taqueria would create more activity downtown, said Councilman Doug Mundrick. “That’s what our citizens say they want.”

The restaurant would front on realigned Ga. 120.

The older portion of the Red Clay Theatre, which was heavily damaged in flooding last fall causing extensive mold, was recently torn down. The newer portion, which contains the stage and seating, is still being used for performances.

Last month the DDA unveiled plans for a 3,500-square-foot building on the now vacant property that would have created a new more visible entrance facing Ga. Highway 120 for the theater. The existing entrance on Main Street would remain.

The proposed replacement building, estimated to cost $550,000, included a large lobby for gatherings, a box office, restrooms, and an administrative office. The design was well-received in an Aug. 17 meeting hosted by the DDA to obtain public input. The building would have been built primarily with DDA and FEMA funds.

Subsequently, at its Aug. 23 work session, the council authorized the DDA to seek architectural drawings for the replacement building.

After Pure Taqueria expressed interest in the site, the DDA reconsidered its plans on Sept. 21.

“This was debated hot and heavy at the DDA meeting,” McGahee said, “but in the end, they voted unanimously to recommend Pure Taqueria on the theater site.”

DDA Vice President Rob Ponder displayed a sketch of revised plans for a 2,700-square-foot building to the council that featured a smaller lobby, a box office, administrative office and restrooms.

Sale of part of the property could help pay for the theater building.

McGahee said the partners plan to open the Pure Taqueria in six months. An alleyway is proposed to separate the restaurant from the theatre.

In other discussion at the work session, the council agreed to consider an amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance at its Oct. 11 regular meeting.

The proposed change would allow beer and wine to be purchased from restaurants in the downtown district during city-sanctioned special events and allow consumption inside businesses and on public streets and rights of way. There are about 10 to 12 of these events a year.