Columbia Heights may be getting its first brewery and arcade now that conditional use permits for both were approved by the City Council Feb. 10.
A strip mall at the corner of 40th Avenue Northeast and Central Avenue Northeast, commonly referred to as the Columbia Heights Mall, has two vacant sites — but those spots should both be occupied soon. Rail Werks Brewing Depot will go into one of the spaces, and Starcade, a vintage arcade, will move into the other.
A charter school used to occupy the location.
Rail Werks will serve beer brewed onsite as well as beer from other breweries and barbecue cuisine. The maximum occupancy is expected to be 450.
The pub is expected to be complete by the end of this year, owner William Roberts told the council Feb. 10. Eventually Rail Werks hopes to add an outdoor patio for dining and drinking.
“I’m excited to see you get it started and going,” Council Member Nick Novitsky told Roberts and his wife, Denise, at the meeting. “I know the community’s really been wanting a brew pub.”
One person spoke in favor of Rail Werks at the public hearing Feb. 10.
“I’ve had William and Denise’s barbecue, and the beer is amazing, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Rachel James, a Columbia Heights resident, told the council.
The city doesn’t have a prevalent night scene, she said, so many leave for Minneapolis to go out on the weekends.
“This would be great for Columbia Heights to keep some of those options in town,” James said.
At the Jan. 31 Planning Commission meeting, community members expressed concern over noise from the brewery and arcade, because there are condominiums near the mall.
New Horizon Academy, a day care, separates the condos from what will be the arcade and brewery.
Council Member Connie Buesgens said while bars are often noisy, breweries tend to bring in a different, calmer crowd.
“Many of the brew pubs I’ve been into have been reasonable and folks behave themselves, so I’m not as concerned about the noise,” Buesgens said.
For Starcade’s ‘70s and ‘80s retro video games, the expected clientele is about 35-55 years old.
City code prohibits the selling of alcohol in an arcade, despite the fact that there hasn’t been an arcade in Columbia Heights, as far as city staff can tell.
Therefore, Starcade won’t initially serve alcohol, but it will seek an ordinance amendment at a later date.
For now, those drinking beer at Rail Werks will have to finish their drinks before venturing to Starcade, Community Development Director Aaron Chirpich told the council.
“We need to take care so there’s a clean break between the two usages, so that exchange isn’t happening,” Chirpich said.
Buesgens spoke in favor of the development.
“I think it’s going to be a busy place,” she said. Starcade’s capacity is planned to be about 450.
Paul Saarinen, co-founder of Starcade, said when he met with the Roberts family, he thought there would be an overlap in each of the businesses’ customers.
“It was a natural extension for us to explore this opportunity,” Saarinen told the council.
He anticipates Starcade to be one of the top five classic arcades nationwide.
“It will bring a lot of business into the area,” he said.