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NIC terminates Fort Ground Grill lease

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | October 4, 2022 8:55 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College is terminating its agreement to lease the Fort Ground Grill back to the seller the college agreed to purchase it from last summer.

NIC Interim Vice President of Finance Sarah Garcia confirmed Monday that the college gave the seller a 60-day notice on Friday.

The property was owned by Steve Widmyer, Coeur d’Alene’s former mayor, and his wife, Marie.

Trustees approved the $1 million purchase of the restaurant in July, as part of the college’s long-range planning efforts.

Because the college had no immediate plans for the space, the purchase agreement allowed Widmyer to lease the property from NIC for $1,200 a month.

Located on the corner of Military Drive and River Avenue, the Fort Ground Grill is nestled between two properties already owned by NIC.

By law, a public entity in Idaho cannot pay more than the appraised value of a property. The sale was for the property and the building in the form of a “clean shell.”

Widmyer said Monday that the Fort Ground Grill’s liquor license is a historical license that can only be used at that location.

Once the restaurant closes, it will be invalid. The license cannot be moved or used anywhere else, so it has no value after closing.

Widmyer told The Press in July that a private party approached the couple earlier this year with interest in buying the restaurant.

Before selling to another party, the Widmyers wanted to give the college a chance to make an offer. For years, NIC has endeavored to purchase properties that are contiguous or within the main campus area as they become available.

“I felt a duty to North Idaho College,” Widmyer said, last summer.

Either party could terminate the lease with 60 days notice, though Widmyer indicated in July that he didn’t anticipate that happening any time soon.

Still, he said Monday that he is comfortable with NIC giving notice.

Garcia said the college is looking to move forward with future planning.

“Having the building vacant gives us more flexibility,” she said.

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