Ling & Louie’s will close at the end of the year and later reopen as a new, sports-themed concept, owner Michael McDermott said last week.

“We just felt it was best to put in a new concept that could better utilize the expanded rooftop and really create more of that bar scene and also something that could have a little bit of a broader appeal,” he said.

Rendering of the new sports-themed concept.

Rendering of the new sports-themed concept.

McDermott, who operated the Asian-inspired bar and grill under a licensing agreement with the national chain, said the main motivation for the change were the menu restrictions and ample space available.

“We have four levels total,” McDermott said. “We’re just not using it to our full potential.”

It's been a year of transition along Nicollet Mall downtown. The torn-up thoroughfare is undergoing a $50 million remake and Vincent, Masa and Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar have all also recently closed. The past year has also seen two openings: a Caribou Coffee/ Einstein Bros. Bagels partnership in the former Vincent space and a Five Guys Burger and Fries in RBC Plaza.

McDermott said Ling & Louie’s stayed steady, particularly during the day hours. But he sees room for growth. After it closes on Dec. 31, a team of renovators will execute about $1 million in tweaks, ultimately creating Randle’s, which is named after former Viking John Randle and expected to open in February. The bar will be expanded as will the bar area with more communal tables in the plans. And the rooftop dining area, what McDermott considers the true prize of the space, will be nearly doubled, he said. McDermott hopes to have the rooftop construction finished by May 1.

“The big thing about rooftops is you get that bar crowd, you get that after-dinner crowd,” McDermott said. “With Ling & Louie’s, people didn’t see it as a place to go and hang out at night. And Randle’s, we think we’ll have that appeal.”

That night appeal starts with TVs – and lots of them. McDermott plans to add about 24, including a large projection on the rooftop and nine 60-inch plasma TVs set up in a square in the dining area which will transmit a single large image or nine individual ones. A private events space downstairs and the mezzanine level will have TVs as well.

Randle, the new eatery’s namesake, will not be involved with decision-making or operations but will likely be around a lot, McDermott said.

“I’ve gotten to know John just through playing golf with him,” McDermott said. “He’s a great guy, really personable. He’s really involved in the community. He’ll be at the restaurant a lot.”

On the menu, McDermott says he’s planning to keep reworked versions of current favorites as well as sushi, but will add an array of sandwiches, burgers and entrees such as steaks, fish dishes and macadamia nut chicken.

This isn't McDermott's first sports-themed project; he opened Lou Nanne's -- the former University of Minnesota and North Stars hockey player -- in Edina earlier this year.

“I hate to use the term sports bar, but we’re definitely a restaurant-bar and we’ll have a sports theme to it,” McDermott said of Randle's. “But it will have a little bit more of an upscale feel to it in an upscale space.”