Papa Charlie’s Destroyed by Fire During Lutsen 99er Mountain Bike Race

Saturday, June 24 was a bittersweet day for Cook County and visitors to the North Shore. It started at 6 a.m. with a call to report a fire at Papa Charlie’s, a popular restaurant, bar and music venue at Lutsen Mountain for many years. As the morning progressed, fire departments from several communities responded to the mutual aid call. 

Charlie’s planned to open early that day, 1 p.m., to welcome supporters and racers from the Lutsen 99er mountain bike event. They were, according to a Facebook post, to offer, “cheese curds and beer for supporters and racers.”

Next to Grandma’s Marathon, the Lutsen 99er is one of the largest outdoor sporting events on the north shore. Hundreds of people were riding in one of the four distance races through the trails and woods in Cook County. Each had family and friends here to support them. But by one o’clock it was clear the building was a total loss and Papa Charlie’s wouldn’t be opening.

In the past, the Lutsen 99er began on Lutsen Mountain at Papa Charlie’s doorstep. This year the start of the races had been moved down to the parking lot of Superior National Golf Course at US HIghway 61. 

In addition to Papa Charlie’s, the building housed servers and network equipment that keep Lutsen Mountains operating. The folks at Lutsen Mountains will be posting updates on their Facebook page and website as they recover from this tragic loss.

The gondolas and other facilities on the property were not impacted by the fire and no injuries were reported.

Six north shore fire departments responded to help contain the fire and minimize damage. Lutsen first responders, some who were also race volunteers, were first on the scene. They received mutual aid from departments from Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, Maple Hill, and Silver Bay. 

Also responding were personnel from  the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, North Shore Health ambulance, US Forest Service, and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative. 

In a press release the day of the fire, Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragic loss. 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.”  

On a happier note that day, Cook County’s native son Will Surbaugh, a professional mountain bike racer, earned the first place medal in the Lutsen 99er.