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Drowsy driver crashes into Duluth restaurant

Drowsy driver crashes into Duluth restaurant
Drowsy driver crashes into Duluth restaurant 02:03

DULUTH, Minn. -- A popular North Shore restaurant is temporarily closed for a major remodel ahead of its busiest weekend of the year -- but this wasn't a planned project.

A drowsy driver crashed into the Island Lake Inn early Wednesday morning.

"Cleaner just said, 'Someone came through the wall at our bar,' and I'm like, 'It couldn't be an actual through-the-wall kind of situation,'" said co-owner Sam Spears.

Much to Spears' surprise, it was. An SUV had barreled into the building. Investigators say the driver fell asleep as he was rounding the curve along Rice Lake Road. He then drove through the grassy shoulder and straight into the restaurant.

"Sheared both his wheels because they were gone," Spears said. "The one pull tab gambling booth got launched over the bar."

Amazingly, investigators say the driver was barely hurt, and a cleaning lady who inside at the time happened to be in a different area.

"We got lucky here today with what truly happened," Spears said.

But not so lucky with timing, given that the holiday weekend is only days away.

Sam Spears

"This is our biggest week of the year, our number-one sales every year past five years," Spears said.

The good news is the hole is already patched up, thanks to a local firefighter who's a contractor. The bar is intact, as is the kitchen.

Spears hopes to be open by Friday, a goal not possible without the help of staff and volunteers eager to see them back in business.

"The way the community has come together behind us to support us proves that we're doing something right now and we really appreciate everybody that's been here," Spears said.

This actually isn't the first time the Island Lake Inn has been hit by a car. It's the third time. After the first few incidents, they had cable barriers installed to protect the restaurant. The plan now is to extend the barriers enough to cut off the entrance to the parking lot and extend further down Rice Lake Road.

Investigators say the driver showed no signs of impairment and the crash appears to be an accident. There are no plans to file charges.

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