Smoke aerial.JPG

The Smoke property, outlined in light blue, will have a patio bordering the west side of the building later this year to allow for outdoor seating of 24 occupants. (Courtesy of Schneider Geospatial)

Smoke has attracted a strong customer base since its opening last year, but the addition of outdoor seating would allow the restaurant to serve more guests at once.

At the Lonsdale City Council’s Thursday meeting, Smoke owner Andrew Rasmussen explained that Smoke can currently operate at 75% capacity indoors, due to COVID-19 health and safety regulations. Adding outdoor seating will allow the restaurant to reach 100% occupancy, which is 44 people.

Rasmussen submitted a conditional use permit for a patio/outdoor seating at Smoke, which the council approved at the meeting. In a separate agenda item, the council also approved an adjustment to Smoke’s liquor license to include the outdoor serving area.

The planned outdoor seating area, located on the east side of the restaurant, will contain a 30-by-24-foot or 720-square-foot patio that would seat 24 occupants. To give perspective by comparing that to a nearby restaurant, City Planner Ben Baker said the Whistle Stop Tavern has an outdoor seating area of 620 square feet.

This area outside Smoke is paved and was used as a drive-thru under previous ownership of the building. Aside from this drive-thru window, there will be no direct access to the building from the patio. Patrons will need to enter at the west door and walk through the restaurant to access the outdoor seats, and Rasmussen proposed a 5-foot handicap accessible gate on the north side.

A black ornamental fence will encase the patio with rope lighting placed along the fence. No additional lighting, or speakers, were proposed.

The new setup would not limit parking for patrons, who use the west lot or else park on the street.

As part of the patio addition, Rasmussen’s plans include the installation of a vestibule/bathroom in the months ahead. Out of respect for neighbors and guests, he proposed not installing a portable toilet in the interim. As long as the restaurant stays under the 44 person capacity, he said the indoor bathroom will be sufficient for the time being.

In addressing potential noise issues outdoor seating could cause at a restaurant in a residential area, Rasmussen said, “I feel we have a very strong relationship with the people that surround Smoke. All the residents, they love having us there. I feel that they’re very friendly to us.”

He added there will be no outdoor music as part of the arrangement, and the restaurant’s business model isn’t to be open late; he said Smoke is “completely dead” by 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

“It sounds like you’re pretty cognizant of the neighbors and respect their properties …” Mayor Tim Rud said at the meeting. “Typically noise is your biggest complaint [for an outdoor establishment], and it sounds like you can monitor that and it’s not late night anyway.”

The newly amended liquor license, which the council approved, will allow for Smoke to serve alcohol on the outdoor patio. To prevent food or beverage consumption outside the seating area, Rasmussen plans to have a server closely monitor the space when it’s occupied.

Ideally, Rasmussen said he would like to see the patio project started in late spring or early summer, but it depends on the availability of materials. In the meantime, he looks forward to a roof replacement starting May 10.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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