Chanhassen may get a new sit-down dining restaurant if parking issues can be resolved.
Whiskey Inferno Smokehouse, which has a restaurant in Savage, is considering developing the former Applebee’s property at 7700 Market Blvd. On its website, Whiskey Inferno describes itself as “reinvented Chicago steakhouse meets Central Texas barbecue in a casual setting with an enchanting, and captivating cocktail program. Steak, BBQ, and craft cocktails in an uncomplicated, relaxed style,” and family and locally owned.
According to a city staff report, Solomon Real Estate Group bought the Applebee’s restaurant in September 2018. Other uses were considered, including a bank, which the Chanhassen City Council discouraged earlier this year.
The City Council discussed the Applebee’s redevelopment and the possibility of having Whiskey Inferno come to the city, at its May 25 work session. City Manager Todd Gerhardt provided an overview of the proposal.
“Everyone wants a restaurant,” Gerhardt said, “a sit-down with wait staff; something we hear from residents and the business community, and it’s not a franchise. It (Whiskey Inferno) is a start-up that has found some success (in Savage).
According to city documents, the existing building, built in 1996 would be completely remodeled and have an outdoor patio. Whiskey Inferno would also need additional parking. The current parking lot had 89 spaces and was adequate for Applebee’s. Whiskey Inferno anticipates higher demand and wants 27 additional parking spaces, which may be built across West 79th Street on the southwest side. That land is owned by the city. The cost to build the parking lot is estimated at $160,000.
The restaurant is only able to pay $100,000 for the parking; City Planner Kate Aanenson met with the Carver County CDA to apply for a $60,000 grant to offset the cost.
But the sticking point may be the existing traffic and pedestrians.
“You already have a congested street,” said City Councilor Jerry McDonald. “79th Street is already crowded. I’m all for redeveloping, but not for the parking lot. It doesn’t fit the character and is setting up a bad thing in this neighborhood. You got to find another place for parking.”
City Councilor Bethany Tjornhom weighed in. “Unless there’s a bridge (over West 79th Street) it will be tricky. When it’s dark and cold, people will be looking for shortcuts. Restaurants have a shelf life. What happens after this one leaves one day?” City Councilor Julia Coleman wanted to see more engineering for the pedestrian crossing. “How do you direct them to the crosswalk,” Coleman asked.
Developer Jay Scott said the restaurant plans to have employees park there.
“This is a key cornerstone of development for the city,” Mayor Elise Ryan said. “It’s what residents have asked for repeatedly. The challenge of the site is parking. The challenge is lack of parking, whether it’s there for 20 years. We had discussion months ago; let’s find a restaurant if possible. That’s what city staff has done. I would really like to see this redeveloped. The Whiskey Inferno would be fantastic.”
MAYOR FOR DAY
Amelia Wagner, 11, a fifth-grader from Chapel Hill Academy, was the second winner of the annual Mayor for a Day essay contest sponsored by the city.
Amelia opened the May 25 Chanhassen City Council meeting with a sharp rap of the gavel, followed by Mayor Ryan reading an excerpt from Amelia’s essay, then presenting Amelia with a bouquet of flowers and a photo with the City Council and city staff.
Representatives from Old National Bank presented the city with a $3,000 check as a sponsor of the annual summer concert series. The previous sponsor was KleinBank which was purchased by Old National Bank. “We wanted to make sure Old National is continuing the concert series,” said Gretchen Holmgren, of Old National Bank.
“We really appreciate your continued support of this very popular event,” Mayor Ryan responded. “The first one is June 13. They’re always very well attended.”