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Portillo's plans to open a hot dog joint in Maple Grove are rejected

It would have been Minnesota's second Portillo's location.
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Sorry Maple Grove, no Chicago-style hot dogs for you.

Portillo's, the famous Chicago beef and hot dog chain, has seen its plans to open what would be its second Minnesota restaurant thwarted by Maple Grove City Council.

The restaurant chain had planned to spend $3.2 million on a restaurant on what is currently parking lot space across Elm Creek Boulevard North from the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, with a submission to Maple Grove City Council estimating it would generate $4-6 million in sales and create "numerous employment opportunities" for local residents.

A loss of parking and a probable increase in traffic congestion from Portillo's popular drive-thru was expected to be the main stumbling block to the council approving the plans, but it was concern for the future of the Arbor Lakes mall that mainly prompted the council's rejection at Monday's meeting.

Despite Mayor Mark Steffenson and council member Phil Leith being in favor of the project, members Karen Jaeger, Judy Hanson and Kristy Barnett voted against it. You can watch the meeting here.

All three were skeptical of claims from the general manager of Arbor Lakes and Portillo's that the restaurant would be a "destination" that would drive more foot traffic to the Shoppes, which like most retail malls has been struggling with store closures in recent years.

They thought the distance between the proposed Portillo's from the Shoppes was too great to suggest it would result in more people shopping at the mall, and believe it needs to be closer to encourage more shopping.

"If it was further up into the shopping area I could see where you would walk around and shop but it seems quite a long way to go," Jaeger said.

"I'm not entirely convinced bringing in a destination restaurant is going to deal with the vacancy issues we have at Arbor Lakes," Hanson said. "It's far enough from the shops that it's not going to cause me to walk the distance and do shopping."

The council will need to approve a denial order at a later meeting to make the decision final.

Maple Grove mayor not happy

The decision did not sit well with Mayor Steffenson, who said after the vote: "I don't understand it quite frankly. I have to comment that we have to have a vision for the community, but I don't understand this."

"We have gone out, we have tried to make this community a better, more attractive place for businesses to come, and this does not fulfill that desire," he added.

The council had earlier heard from Arbor Lakes general manager Michael Landstad, who was speaking out in favor of Portillo's, saying the landscape for retail is changing to the point where destination restaurants are replacing so-called "anchor" stores as the prime drivers of foot traffic.

Landstad noted the Shoppes had seen Banana Republic, J. Crew and Anthropologie pull out in the past few years.

Portillo's will open its first Minnesota restaurant in Woodbury in late July.

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