'Same, only better': New owners take over Speak Easy in Moorhead

Larry Hauger, left, is the manager for the Speak Easy restaurant and bar, which is under new ownership in Moorhead. Long-time employee Kent Larson is in charge of the kitchen.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Larry Hauger, left, is the manager and co-owner of the Speak Easy restaurant and bar, which is under new ownership in Moorhead. Longtime employee Kent Larson is in charge of the kitchen. Dave Wallis / The Forum

MOORHEAD — New owners of the Speak Easy don't plan to make any big changes to the restaurant and bar that has been in business at 1001 30th Ave. S. since 1974.

"The name is staying. The menu is basically staying the same," said Larry Hauger, manager and co-owner.

He is in the process of tweaking the menu a bit with longtime chef Kent Larson, but he wants diners to know favorites like the seafood fettuccine and the lasagna Italiano aren't going anywhere.

It's homemade dishes like those that make the Speak Easy special, Larson said.

He and his partner, Jim Mercil, sold the restaurant Dec. 1 after struggling for several months when a construction project closed the Interstate 94 exit nearby for much of the summer.


Larson said many people assumed the restaurant would close once news of the impending sale was announced.

"People assume if it's for sale it's going to close. That's one of the things we want to dispel," he said. "There's a new owner. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 were just two different days."

Larson believes the restaurant will be "the same, only better" under the new ownership.

A majority of the staff, including Larson, remain.

Hauger has added a few touches like new tablecloths in the restaurant and TVs for the bar. He also plans to add more high-top tables and to recover the bar stools.

He said business is slowly picking up.

"I'll go up and introduce myself to tables and thank them for coming in, and they'll say, 'Thank you for keeping it open,' " he said.

He said the Speak Easy is a family restaurant where many customers, himself included, have celebrated special occasions over the years. Hauger took his future wife to the restaurant on their first date in 1992. (He had the seafood fettuccine.)


"It's a place Moorhead wants to work," Hauger said. "We get a lot of people who come here from all over town. They come here because it's a place they remember and a place where they have all these good memories. We just want to keep that going."

The Speak Easy opens daily at 11 a.m. The restaurant also partners with Food Dudes Delivery.

Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at
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