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Red Wing Police were responding to a disturbance call on 21St. on Sept. 2, when an officer saw an SUV speeding northbound on Bush St. The officer turned around in time to see the vehicle drive past the stop sign at Fourth and Plum and turn left onto Third Street. The officer then saw a dust cloud and debris at the intersection of Third and Plum where the vehicle collided with Liberty's Restaurant.

Marie Krebsbach, owner of Marie’s Underground Grill and Tap House, witnessed the crash. She was sitting on the patio in front of her restaurant with one of her employees after work when they heard sirens approaching.

“There was a car with three girls in it, stopped at the stop sign, and this car swerved to go around and lost control and ran into the building,” Krebsbach said. “We got up to go over there, and some of the bricks from above the Liberty's sign fell down. Then more of the building fell down.”

She said the girls in the car pulled over to the side of the road and were pretty frightened. She said police arrived on the scene quickly.

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Although both the restaurant and lounge at Liberty’s have reopened, state restrictions on indoor seating at restaurants and bars which went into effect at the end of November mean only takeout and delivery services are available. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Although both the restaurant and lounge at Liberty’s have reopened, state restrictions on indoor seating at restaurants and bars which went into effect at the end of November mean only takeout and delivery services are available. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

They found a 28-year-old Red Wing man, Donovan Brady Plank. inside an SUV surrounded by bricks that had fallen from the Liberty’s building. Plank was treated on the scene and transported to Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing for further assessment before being booked into Goodhue County Detention Center on charges of first-degree criminal damage to property and third-degree driving while impaired, according to a city news release Thursday afternoon, Sept. 3.

Six restaurant employees, two cleaners, and four of five apartment renters were in the building when the accident occurred about half an hour before closing time, according to owner Doug Noreen. Fortunately, no one was injured, but all five apartment renters needed to find other places to live.

Access to the lounge at Liberty’s is through a door on Plum St. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Access to the lounge at Liberty’s is through a door on Plum St. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

An initial inspection said the building, constructed in 1886, might be condemned, according to a news release, but further examination determined that repairs could be made.

“They call it selective demolition,” Noreen said. “They are jackhammering a bunch of the loose brick and taking it down bit by bit. They will get everything torn back to a certain point, then they will start shoring it up and reconstructing. This is a huge relief for a lot of people.”

Response from the community was quick and positive, according to Noreen, with people offering to help clean up or offering to provide business space during the reconstruction. With the help of community members, employees, and construction crews, the restaurant started serving customers again on Oct. 1.

“People were missing our food, especially our pizza,” Noreen said. “On that first night, I finally had to go over and set the phone down. I said we can’t take any more orders. I have 45 pizzas to make right now.”

Even with large plastic sheets covering the entire front of the building, Liberty’s reopened seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. weekdays and until 11 on weekends. Noreen said access to the lounge is from Plum Street and the door to the dining room is from Third Street.

Through October and most of November, the restaurant was open for takeout, dine-in, and delivery, but further restrictions on restaurants and bars in late November stopped indoor dining in restaurants and seating in bars. Liberty’s Restaurant & Lounge remains open for takeout and delivery, and Noreen said they are adhering to the state guidelines related to COVID-19.

Snipz, a salon located in the Liberty’s building, was able to open by Oct. 1 following the accident in early September. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Snipz, a salon located in the Liberty’s building, was able to open by Oct. 1 following the accident in early September. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

The beauty salon Snips opened just before the beginning of October, Noreen explained, and apartment renters were able to return to three of the five apartments on the second floor. Two other apartments will require further reconstruction, and he expects them to be ready about June 1.

Noreen said things have settled into a normal pace now, but he is still amazed at the number of offers he is getting from people in the community who want to help.

“The feedback is so amazing. It is so positive,” he said. “It is overwhelming, and it has brought me to tears several times.”