Investigation continues into fire that destroyed popular gathering place on Minnesota's North Shore

Ski Party 2023 at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen
Papa Charlie's was a hub for events like Ski Party 2023 at Lutsen Mountains in northern Minnesota.
Eric Xu Romani | MPR

Minnesota’s North Shore lost a major community gathering spot over the weekend when a fire destroyed a restaurant at Lutsen Mountains ski resort.

The cause of the fire that leveled Papa Charlie’s, a popular restaurant, bar and concert venue, remains under investigation. There were no reports of injuries.

The fire was reported at about 6 a.m. Saturday. Lutsen Mountains general manager Jim Vick said six local volunteer fire departments prevented the blaze from spreading any further, despite extremely dry conditions.

“Gondola is immediately adjacent, ticket office is only 20 feet away, and then to a rental shop — and none of those structures had any damage whatsoever. No blistering paint, no windows blown out from the heat,” he said. “They were able to keep it contained to the Papa Charlie’s building.”

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Vick said there’s no timeline yet on when it will be rebuilt. Lutsen Mountains is also working to restore its reservation system after the fire destroyed the resort’s data servers.

Vick noted that while visitors flock to the North Shore for outdoor recreation, “you celebrate that with the folks you’re out with, by going to Papa Charlie’s — that’s the kind of venue it was. It was the gathering spot to share those experiences. And becomes where those memories are cemented.”

Ski Party 2023 at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen
Papa Charlie's at Lutsen Mountains in northern Minnesota served as a venue spot.
Eric Xu Romani | MPR

The fire happened just before Saturday’s Lutsen 99er mountain bike race that started and finished near Lutsen Mountains.

Race officials noted afterward that many Lutsen 99er volunteers are also volunteer firefighters.

“When they were called to a serious fire (at Papa Charlie’s) ... the community came together, with essentially no notice, and helped staff our aid stations,” they posted on the race’s Facebook page.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragic loss,” Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen said in a statement after the fire. “Papa Charlie’s holds a special place in everyone’s heart and mind. We are fortunate that we have such a wonderful volunteer public safety response in Cook County to prevent further loss.”