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Ask the Expert: Kalcon Commercial Construction

Q: I’m looking at a property for my new restaurant that includes a rooftop area that would be perfect for a bar. What are some of the costs and design challenges I may face? Should we consider adding a roof or some kind of protection for weather, and if not what, accommodations would I need to do to get the most use of a rooftop in a climate like Minnesota’s?


A: Generally, the biggest expense for a rooftop space is the elevator required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for mid- to large-sized rooftops. Elevators require a rated enclosed shaft to be built around it in addition to an elevator vestibule on the roof. Also, city regulations typically require two paths of egress for such spaces, which can be challenging to design into an existing building.

The roof structure itself is a second major cost. For example, at Malcolm Yards Market, we determined that the existing steel-bar joists should be removed, and new precast concrete planks be installed to handle the new live loads (people, deflection, etc.) and dead loads (bar, decking, etc.). There may also be a need for additional fire protection (usually a dry sprinkler head system under the new rooftop deck) plus safety railings or other exterior barricades. The bar itself will also require new electrical and plumbing that can be winterized.  

As far as whether a roof is needed, most restaurateurs opt to build a shelter over the bar to protect the mechanical systems and bar equipment, leaving the rest of the rooftop exposed. Planning for some type of protection from the elements, however, is necessary. In summer, umbrellas work to shade guests from sun and rain. More permanent pergola structures are a popular option if the budget allows. To extend the rooftop season, infrared heat (either portable or permanent) is a good option. Depending on the location (on a high-rise building or near a large lake, for example), wind may also be a factor that needs to be mitigated.

Before deciding on a space, keep in mind that local zoning restrictions may prohibit or limit rooftop spaces, so it is important to start with some research regarding the specific location being considered. Additionally, some older buildings are subject to historic restrictions that do not allow any alteration to the exterior of the building, including the roof. In general, a rooftop bar can be very profitable, but before you commit, we recommend working with a professional to make sure that you know what you’re getting into.


Q: For a new brewery project, would you advise converting an existing location or building from the ground up? Also how does the build-out of a brewery differ from a full-service restaurant?


A: The choice between new construction and repurposing an existing building really comes down to what the specific client wants. Location is usually the key factor for our brewery clients, and while some are able to find a suitable existing space that matches their vision, others need to start from scratch to get what they want. For example, we are building a 13,000-square-foot brewery in Fridley in an 80-year-old boiler building that was once part of a WWII gun turret manufacturing plant. There are a lot of unique existing features that the clients are incorporating into the design which will make the space truly one of a kind. On the other hand, we just finished 3rd Act Brewery, which is a 6,000-square-foot new, ground-up building in Woodbury. The clients were targeting a very specific geographic area comprised of new developments, so it made sense to buy an empty lot and build exactly what they wanted. 

Beyond the location factor, keep in mind that new construction is much more expensive and generally takes longer than working with an existing structure, so money and timing should be part of the equation.

Regarding the differences between restaurant build-outs and brewery build-outs, they are very similar when it comes to the front-of-house areas, but the back-of-house operations are completely different. A commercial kitchen has a considerable amount of HVAC work, such as grease exhaust and make-up-air, whereas a brewery is heavy on plumbing, including trench drains, process piping, RO systems, chillers/glycol, CO2, water softeners, and compressed air and boilers. Another unique concern that arises with breweries relates to the weight of the tanks and the ability of the floor and sub-slab soil to carry that load. On the permitting level, the Department of Agriculture oversees breweries, while the Department of Health oversees restaurants, with specific codes and regulations applying to each type.

We are currently seeing a growing trend with clients combining food and brewing (Birch’s On The Lake, Keg & Case Market, etc.), which adds another layer of complexity to the process, but also another revenue stream. 

David Kalogerson is the owner of Minnetonka-based Kalcon, which specializes in hospitality construction, including restaurants, breweries and event spaces. David has a B.A. and master’s in architectural engineering from Penn State University and has managed more than 200 commercial construction projects. Kalcon has completed more than 100 projects in its six-and-a-half years in business, including both ground-up, remodeling projects and historical renovations. 

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