Portillo’s is coming to Maple Grove after all, the City Council decided Monday evening.
The 4-1 vote comes after an earlier vote denying the Chicago-based hot dog restaurant’s plans to open a location in the Shoppes at Arbor Lake over fears about parking and traffic congestion.
The proposal would bring a 9,000-square-foot restaurant to an existing parking lot on the northern side of the Shoppes, just east of one of the main entrances.
The city is expected to make the final vote approving plans on May 1, said Council Member Phil Leith.
“I think it’ll be a great fit for Maple Grove,” Leith said.
The Shoppes General Manager Michael Landstad has said that Portillo’s is a “destination restaurant” that could “become anchor tenants for shopping centers” now that big box department stores, like Macy’s and Sears, have closed.
Council Member Kristy Barnett, who was the only member to vote against it, said her main concerns have been traffic congestion and safety.
Barnett said design plans would have to change to allow Portillo’s to build on top of an existing parking lot.
“I have no concerns with Portillo’s as an organization,” Barnett said. “I just don’t think this is the right solution for this one particular shopping mall.”
Barnett added that she prioritized safety and residents’ concerns with traffic over bringing the “destination restaurant.”
Earlier in April, other council members said they, too, were concerned about adding more traffic, particularly from what could be a busy drive-through.
Wendy Hunter, a representative from Portillo’s, told the City Council on April 3 that they would have several employees directing traffic during peak times — even during the winter.
“I only hope we are so busy that we back up,” Hunter said.
Council Member Judy Hanson, who changed her vote on Monday, said that her initial “unpopular decision” to deny the concept plan had nothing to do with the restaurant itself, but “squeezing it into that location” and what that could do for traffic.
“I’m still feeling very uncomfortable that we are going to say ‘Let’s go through this’ and more people are angry with more congestion, that’s what I’m struggling with,” Hanson said.
After originally voting against the concept, Council Member Karen Jaeger also changed her mind.
“I think we made a lot of people happy,” she said after the vote.
During the open forum, when one resident heard about a Portillo’s potential opening in the city, she told the council during Monday’s meeting: “I thought it was the best thing that could happen at Maple Grove.”