By Pete Soyer
The Park Restaurant closed its doors this morning after serving meals for almost a year.
The restaurant opened Aug. 29, 2000, and because of a "flat economy" had to close, said owner Ron Knudson.
"We gave it a good run," but the economy couldn't support a new business, he said.
Knudson and his wife, Betty, held off through the summer before closing The Park. He said he hoped increased business from tourists would help, but the number of customers didn't increase. He said he believes rumored high gas prices was part of the cause.
He also said the drought has damaged the Havre economy.
"Opening a new business is taking a risk... This just didn't work out," he said.
Knudson said he also had trouble finding enough employees. "We couldn't cover all the hours," he said.
The Park Hotel will not be affected by the restaurant closing.
About 35 people were employed at the Park restaurant. Knudson said he talked to most of them Monday and they were all surprised when he told them the restaurant was closing.
"We had some great people working there," he said.
"It hurts," Knudson said. "We wouldn't have opened the restaurant if we didn't think we could make a go of it."
Willa Kooch, owner of Arctic Circle, said it is hard to keep a restaurant running in Havre because of all the competition. Arctic Circle has been open for about 30 years.
She also said she has had a problem keeping positions filled this year. She usually receives 10 to 12 applications in summer, but she has only had five this summer. "We've been putting in some awful hours here."
She said she hasn't noticed a decline in customers. "It's about the same as last summer."
Betty Knudson said it is an emotional issue to close something she and her husband have put so much effort into.
"It wasn't because we didn't try," she said.