SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Falls Park is a big draw, and there is plenty to feast your eyes on. A lot of people, however, gravitate toward Falls Overlook Café.
"Then I'd say, once they get into the restaurant and it becomes more about the food and the atmosphere," Falls Overlook Café server Kortnee Williamson said.
Even though a group of kids were ordering ice cream, the menu is not just kid's stuff. One customer ordered a Reuben Sandwich that was presented in a way more common in a fine dining establishment.
"(We) really kind of challenged them to take the café to another level, which they did," Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Dave Fischer said.
Even though the vendor, Utopia, turned the concession stand into more of a restaurant, the menu may have been too ambitious for the kitchen equipment. Utopia is moving out in October, leaving the future of Overlook up in the air for now.
Utopia also caters events like wedding receptions at Falls Park, but KELOLAND News recently got a tip the company was cancelling contracts and refunding deposits for weddings set for this fall.
Chef and managing partner Tony Kellar said the hood and ventilation system is a type two, and is not really designed for this type of restaurant-style cooking, and therefore not in compliance with a recent fire code inspection.
Kellar said he scaled back his menu to be in compliance and better suit his type of equipment, but found this option was not profitable. He said upgrades to the kitchen could cost about $100,000.
"It'll be a case where there will be a vendor in there. It won't be Utopia, but we'll be able to offer food service there," Fischer said.
Kellar did not want to do an on-camera interview, but claims he was part of two previous checks with his full menu and was never told he was "not in compliance." He also said the city has copies of menus, and both daily and catering menus are also online.
Several vendors have been in this space, including SMG, a company in negotiations with city officials to manage all of the large venues in Sioux Falls. Fischer said no specific company is in consideration or been approached for the location at Falls Park.
"We're just starting these discussions as a staff regarding what kind of a menu we want to see in there," Fischer said.
Kellar and Fischer both said they tried to come up with a solution, but no agreement could be reached.
"We need to move forward. Utopia is moving forward with other plans," Fischer said.
To be clear, this is not a health code issue. The city lists health inspections, and Utopia does not have any violations.
No word on when a new vendor will fill the space, but Kellar says it's likely parks officials will not let the building close.
Kellar is looking for other venues and is looking forward to new opportunities to continue his business, but has not said where or when he would open something else.
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