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Stepping outside

Businesses give diners outdoor experiences

Submitted Photo Patrons enjoy the rooftop venue at Sports on Tap last summer. The bar opened the patio in May 2020.

Some Minot businesses are taking advantage of the summer sun while it shines. Others are finding ways to take advantage of sunshine year round.

Outdoor venues have long been popular with diners and shoppers, and Minot is looking to increase those opportunities, particularly around its downtown area.

One business offering an outdoor setting is Sports on Tap, which opened its rooftop patio along Broadway in May o2020.

“Basically, it’s been on the back of our minds since we moved into this building in 2002,” Sports on Tap owner Tony Mueller said. The idea began taking hold 10 years ago and gained traction about five years ago. After two years of active planning, construction started in 2019.

Mueller said trips to the roof to service HVAC units had disclosed the striking view of the city from 25 feet above ground.

“It really shows Minot off up there,” he said.

There were a couple of motivations for creating the outdoor space.

One was to broaden the bar’s base of clientele by offering an attraction that appealed to a wider group of people. Another was the brevity of North Dakota summers and desire to keep clientele coming to the bar during the summer days when they would prefer to be outside.

“The idea was to turn our summer season into our busy season,” Mueller said. “Last summer exceeded our expectations, even dealing with the coronavirus.”

Having outdoor space actually worked in the bar’s favor when COVID-19 restrictions loosened on outdoor venues first. Mueller said the patio has complemented the indoor space, which has its own appeal with DJ entertainment.

The popularity of the patio has had the space at capacity at times, but Mueller said crowding generally is avoided naturally, because the rooftop attracts different age groups at different times of the day. In terms of attracting a broader range of clientele, the venture was successful, he said.

The intent is to have the outdoor patio open from April 15 to Oct. 15. Mueller said the increase in business has Sports on Tap considering new activities, such as weekend brunches, to further appeal to its new crowd.

Another downtown business, High Third, just opened its outdoor dining section last October on the rooftop of the adjoining building. The rooftop is open year-round.

“We actually have had people use it every month so far,” said Tawnya Bernsdorf, marketing manager for the company. “They love it. They love the skyline view. It’s just a nice atmosphere to hang out.”

Heaters installed above the tables keep temperatures comfortable, even during the winter. A pergola provides some shaded shelter for warmer days.

The space can accommodate around 100 people, and it has been close to capacity on balmy days this month, Bernsdorf said.

The rooftop patio is for patrons 21 and older because of its connection with the bar service. Televisions can be tuned to sports or music video programming.

Bernsdorf said High Third will be watching to see how the public takes to its new rooftop setting this summer while keeping options open for potential ground-level, outdoor dining at some point in the future.

The Starving Rooster plans to open its outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant soon. The outdoor area will be open for dining from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the warmer months. The area will seat about 20 people.

The City of Minot aims to encourage more street-level, outdoor use with the streeteries and parklets proposal approved by the Minot City Council this month.

Streeteries and parklets are extensions of a platform from the curb into a single, paved parking space, with screening from traffic and adjoining parking. Streeteries allow for outdoor dining, while parklets provide public seating in a mini-park setting.

The proposal approved by the council would allow streeteries and parklets between April 15 and Oct. 15 and only in parallel parking spaces and on streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less.

Jonathan Rosenthal, economic developer with the City of Minot, said there’s been business owner interest in the streetery concept, although it is expected, at least initially, that there may be only two or three.

“These are successfully used in Grand Forks already,” said Josh Wolsky, interim director for the Minot Downtown Business & Professional Association. “I think in places where they’re used, they create just more atmosphere and more space for people. That’s the goal that we have for downtown is to make it a center of culture and commerce, and all of that starts with bringing more people and creating more experiences for people.”

Wolsky said Minot has been progressing toward more outdoor venues for several years. A couple years ago the city relaxed regulations around serving alcohol in outdoor venues. New rules allowed for shorter fences and more people-friendly barriers.

A few businesses have been using outdoor dining under the new regulations on a temporary basis, Wolsky said.

“We’ve seen the merchants excited to add these spaces and when they add them, the people come and use them. So this is just a logical progression that the city is exploring,” he said.

Minot City Council member Paul Pitner, who has been engaged in the discussions on downtown development, said there is a demand for outdoor venues that streeteries and parklets can provide. He also sees the city’s policy to pilot streeteries and parklets as a way to promote economic development.

“It is essential that the city be involved in economic development and control its own destiny in economic development,” Pitner said. “I want to give those business owners and property owners the tools to be successful. We’re putting tools in their toolbox that allow them to do projects like this that can expand their seating and expand their customer experience.

“Now it’s up to business owners to take advantage of them,” he added. “Our discussions that we’re having and these projects that we’re piloting and the things we’re moving forward, they’re baby steps, but they’re all going towards a very attractive destination for the city of Minot. Because when you do things like that and you have a better experience downtown or with businesses or bars or restaurants or shopping, it increases your quality of life. More people want to live here. Less people want to leave.”

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