Alcohol or no alcohol at BSC?
A restaurant management company that built the popular Stillwater Dairy Queen is proposing to bring a full scale restaurant to Bielenberg Sports Center.
Gartner Restaurant Holdings is in negotiations with the city of Woodbury to add the restaurant to the new facility's second level.
Greg Gartner and Bill Kulesa, owners of the company that started as a home-based business, said they would bring in a full-fledged kitchen upstairs with concessions and a snack bar on the first floor.
The duo estimates annual sales at $1 million with alcohol or $600,000 without a liquor license.
City staff will continue hammering out the details of the terms since the city will act as the landlord while the restaurant rents out the space and provides the food service.
The question that City Council will have to consider in a final vote is whether the restaurant should provide alcohol in a facility that mainly attracts youth sports groups.
"I'm not totally excited," Council Member Amy Scoggins said, noting that she understands the new remodeled facility will be more of a destination aimed to attract public events like conventions and trade shows, so she's undecided about her final vote.
"When I go to my son's soccer practice, I don't say 'Oh I'll sit and have a beer while my son is playing," she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt said many parents who attend baseball games at the outdoor fields of BSC are often seen bringing their own alcohol.
If the proposal is approved, it would not be the first in the state to have a full scale restaurant at a sports arena that hosts youth sports.
"The trend is going that way," he said, adding that Richfield, Vadnais Heights and Blaine have similar arrangements.
Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said the city doesn't have the resources to build a separate convention center or something exclusive to public gatherings.
The new design of the BSC was approved under the auspices that it could attract events on a much larger scale than what the old field house could offer.
"It can't just be our athletic facility," Stephens said.
Having a restaurant at BSC does not restrict outside hosts from bringing in their own caterers to events, City Administrator Clint Gridley said, citing the agreement with Gartner.
"Any event could bring in any caterer," he said. "We do not want to restrict that as a city."
Because it is a public facility, the plan is to make the new design more open and inviting to any parent or member of the community who wants to hang out on the second floor while they wait for a hockey or soccer game to finish.
Which is why Council Member Julie Ohs wondered if the restaurant would take up the entire floor and make visitors feel unwelcomed if they just sat down without ordering anything.
"This is now way beyond food service," she said.
But Gartner said the new design calls for a railing that would separate the two areas, leaving open seating for the public outside of the restaurant.
"We don't want people to feel like they can't use that," he said. "It is public space."
Inspired by the Headwaters Bar and Restaurant at the Xcel Energy Center, Gartner said he would bring in a space resembling a Minnesota lodge, with a fireplace, open ceilings and wood beams throughout.
The city is considering a seven-year term with five-year renewal options, according to the proposal.
Rent would be based on the restaurant's sales - 12 percent in gross sales if alcohol is served and 10 percent if not.
Gartner Restaurant Holdings also operates Mara Mi Care and Store in Stillwater and the Chill Zone concessions in the St. Croix Valley Recreation Center.
The city received one other proposal and selected Gartner as the most suitable candidate.