Edina's bar and restaurant scene soon could get a major boost from the city, which may allow rooftop dining for the first time in seven years.
City officials reopened that possibility after Life Time fitness club, expected to open at Southdale Center in 2019, expressed interest in serving food on its deck.
The Planning Commission began discussing a proposed change on the issue last month.
"Allowing rooftop dining is good for Edina ... and for the economic vitality of the community," said Joel Hilgendorf, chairman of the Edina Chamber of Commerce, during a commission meeting Jan. 24.
The City Council will conduct a public hearing Feb. 21 on the proposed rooftop dining ordinance and could approve the change that night, according to Community Development Director Cary Teague.
Under the proposed rule, rooftop dining could be an option for any restaurant in the city's commercial districts, such as 50th and France, Southdale and Grandview.
Rooftop dining would be permitted from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Interested restaurants would have to install some sort of partition between the deck and nearby homes, in addition to safety fencing for customers.
Noise would be regulated by Edina's city code, and outdoor lighting would be limited to the rooftop area. Restaurants also would have to update their liquor license to serve alcohol outside.
Retrofitting a restaurant to include rooftop service is a major and costly change, Teague said. Owners may need to install an elevator and fire stairs and provide access for customers with disabilities.
The ordinance, should it pass, would end a ban on rooftop dining in Edina that the council enacted in 2011.
At the time, Cocina Del Barrio in the 50th and France district had shown interest in serving food and drinks on its roof. Officials with the city, which had no restaurant decks at the time, drafted an ordinance that would allow rooftop dining as long as the restaurant was at least 50 feet from residences.
But it faced pushback from residents of nearby condos, Teague said. The council ended up rejecting the plan and instead prohibited restaurants from opening up their rooftops for dining.
The proposed ordinance written last month originally mandated a distance of 100 feet between a restaurant with rooftop dining and residences. That restriction was dropped, however, after Planning Commission members argued that the rest of the ordinance adequately addressed nuisance issues.
"It seems like we're mitigating any of the impacts nearby and we don't have to rely on this arbitrary number of distance," Commissioner Steven Hobbs said at the Jan. 24 meeting. "We're good on the two issues that matter — sight and sound."
Commissioner Sheila Berube agreed, adding that "nothing will be on the rooftop after 10 o'clock."
The neighboring suburbs of Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie allow rooftop dining, according to city documents. Many restaurants and bars in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood also offer rooftop dining.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753