'Car bar' in Cottage Grove set to expand, add smoking shelterThe Cottage Grove City Council will vote Wednesday on a proposed expansion of American Motorsports Bar and Grill.
A popular Cottage Grove restaurant and bar is ready to grow, with plans to add bar and banquet space and an outdoor place for smokers to gather.
The Cottage Grove City Council will vote Wednesday on a proposed expansion of American Motorsports Bar and Grill that its owners, husband and wife Tom — known as Shorty — and Cheri Shannon, say will give them more bar and banquet space to help them feed a growing business.
American Motorsports, located at 7240 East Point Douglas Rd., will take over nearly 2,400 square feet of empty space next door with plans to tear down an inside wall to expand the bar space, expand the restaurant’s banquet facilities and bathrooms and add a fenced-in, sheltered outdoor smoking patio on the rear of the building.
The expansion plans are part of changes at the seven-year-old restaurant that include a new menu, too, Shorty Shannon said.
“The bar just gets too crowded on the weekend nights,” Shannon said. “We wanted to get some more space. Some people now will walk in, walk around and walk out because they can’t find a table.”
The addition of a smoking patio, too, played a big part in deciding to expand, he said.
Since Minnesota’s statewide indoor smoking ban took effect in 2007, smokers have tended to congregate on the sidewalk outside the bar’s front entrance, Shannon said. That’s something he said he wanted to get away from and a sheltered patio —where patrons can take their drink with them when they step outside — will give smokers a better experience.
The smoking ban “had a short-term impact” on business, he said. “It was a small percentage. Most [smokers] have just dealt with it. I’m hoping with the space out back it’ll be a little more comfortable.”
While businesses in the mall area near the car bar have struggled — a Home Depot, Cottage Grove Athletic Association-run bingo hall and a video rental store have all closed in recent years — Shannon said American Motorsports has continued to slowly and steadily grow.
Things could get better, too, he said, with city officials touting plans to redevelop the retail area around the restaurant and bar.
“I think it’ll help us; the more foot traffic the better,” Shannon said. “The proposed LA Fitness down the way can’t hurt. Go ahead and work out and come down here for a beer.”
Mayor Myron Bailey said he thinks the popular restaurant’s expansion is a good sign for businesses in the city.
“It goes to prove you can open a business in Cottage Grove and it can flourish here,” Bailey said. “I’m proud to see that Shorty and his team can expand their business down there and grow in the community.”