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A new barbecue restaurant called Smoke is scheduled to open in the former Treats of Lonsdale/Taste of Lonsdale building on or about May 1. Owner Andrew Rasmussen is currently working with the building official to improve the interior. (News Review file photo)

Lonsdale will soon have one more curbside pickup option for restaurant takeout, and when the spread of coronavirus subsides, the building itself will be ready for customers.

Andrew Rasmussen, who began cooking professionally about 16 years ago, entered into a contract for deed to purchase the vacant building at 115 Railway St. SW, which formerly housed Treats of Lonsdale and more recently Taste of Lonsdale. His restaurant, called Smoke, will be a family oriented barbecue restaurant that also serves beer, wine and liquor. Smoke will be among the over one dozen restaurants Rasmussen has opened since he began cooking full-time about 13 years ago.

The Lonsdale Police Department approved Rasmussen’s background check, and the City Council approved his application for an on-sale liquor license during its Thursday meeting online. According to Rasmussen, the team of head brewers in his network hand select where they distribute their products, and Lonsdale will be among its sites.

“We’re going to have some world class beer right here in Lonsdale,” Rasmussen said during the meeting.

In January, Rasmussen began the paperwork and licensing process for Smoke. He’s been making improvements to the building’s interior since the middle of March and hired a designer in the process.

“I’m trying to get that building up to my standards, something I can hang my hat on and be proud of, and something the community can be proud of, too,” said Rasmussen.

The hours of operation for Smoke will start out 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Rasmussen said he’s “not trying to drown in payroll right away,” and put monthly expenses on hold due to coronavirus. He doesn’t plan to serve lunch, at least not right away. If the community responds well, he may open Smoke on Sundays and possibly extend hours during football season.

With his wife in charge of customer service, Rasmussen said he needs about 12 people to run Smoke, most of them on a part-time basis.

City Council members were eager to approve Rasmussen’s application for an on-sale liquor license.

Said Council member Kevin Kodada: “I think it’s very exciting to have a new restaurant here in town.”

Police station update

City staff had prepared a request for proposals for a Lonsdale police facility, but the council agreed to table the approval of the RFPs until a special virtual City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 16.

Staff negotiated a purchase agreement for two parcels at the Fifteenth Ave. NE and Commerce Dr. SE intersection, and the City Council approved the purchase agreement during its March 26 meeting. The RFPs staff drafted since requests design, bidding and construction of a new police facility of approximately 6,000 square feet as well as the price of a “master plan” for future amenities that may be added to the site later.

The current police facility is small, approximately 1,500 square feet of office space, making it impossible for officers to comply with Minnesota Department of Corrections requirements and provide room for storage. A new police station has been discussed as a need for the past couple years.

The estimated cost of a 6,000-square-foot police facility is $1.6 million. Additional expenses include furniture, fixtures, equipment and indirect costs such as planning and designing.

The city has a couple options for financing the police station, which City Administrator Joel Erickson described during Thursday’s meeting. The city can issue general obligation bonds through a capital improvement plan, which is typical for a street project. As another option, the city could enter a lease-to-purchase agreement and lease the facility from the city’s Economic Development Authority, for example, or a trustee such as a bank with the last payment being $0 or $1.

The city may also take the financial route of entering into an agreement with a builder for a design, bid and build plan. This is similar to the city’s plan last year, when planning for a joined city hall/police station facility.

Before the council can approve the RFPs, Mayor Tim Rud asked Erickson to do more research and identify the best financial path, as this will determine how to proceed with the RFPs.

Erickson agreed to have a financial report ready by April 16, when the City Council will again meet to analyze the different options for financing the building and construction itself.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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