Shortly after restaurateurs Eric Carnegie and Chad Hughes made the decision to open a new casual restaurant and bar concept in the former Crispy Catch on Perkins Road, Carnegie had a sudden brainstorm.
“I was looking at it, and made the comment that the roof was a blank canvas up there,” he recalls. “Chad said, ‘You’re thinking rooftop bar.’ We started looking at it closely and it just made sense.”
Plans for a rooftop bar quickly became integrated in the design for turning the space into the duo’s new local restaurant, Bumsteers, specializing in house-made American fare. Carnegie says he and Hughes got lucky. There was no need to move existing electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems on the roof, so the cost of building out the new space was kept in check. The restaurant and rooftop bar is slated for a March opening.
Patrons will reach the rooftop bar by a separate outdoor staircase. The space can accommodate 75 customers and will include a full bar fashioned from a shipping container, umbrella tables and seating, a pool table, kids’ area and bathrooms. Patrons’ food orders will be sent up to the second floor via a dumbwaiter from the restaurant kitchen below.
Carnegie declines to reveal the rooftop addition’s cost, but suggests the added value will pay for itself.
“We think it’ll be worth it. Nothing like this really exists in Baton Rouge,” he says. “We wanted to give it that Austin feel.”
Outdoor restaurant dining in the form of patios, rooftop bars and sidewalk seating—or “parklets”—is on the rise around the country as restaurants experiment with new profit centers and ways to capture both millennials and families. Al fresco drinking and dining is a hallmark of trendy American cities and European café culture, and done right, an outdoor dining area can increase a restaurant’s curb appeal and ability to stand out in a crowded field. Baton Rouge has been behind other cities in adopting this, says Dyke Nelson, founder and lead designer of DNA Workshop.
“It’s bizarre the amount of outdoor dining there is in New Orleans versus here,” says Nelson. “From a climate standpoint, it’s pretty much the same, and with the right conditioning, it’s not that bad.”
Moreover, good outdoor spaces can go a long way in branding a venue.
“You have the vantage point of the people experiencing the outdoor space,” says Nelson, who has installed rooftop patios in several of his firm’s designs and developments, including the new roof terrace patio outside Red Stick Social in the Electric Depot on Government Street. “And you also have the vantage point of people on the outside looking at the space and seeing how appealing it is.”
Red Stick Social’s roof terrace patio, situated on the east side of the building, will feature a bar, space for an outdoor kitchen installation and live music. It will open in March.
DNA Workshop has also designed the rooftop space now underway on top of The Chimes, just off LSU’s Campus on Highland Road. The space will include both indoor and outdoor seating.
“It’s bizarre the amount of outdoor dining there is in New Orleans versus here. From a climate standpoint, it’s pretty much the same, and with the right conditioning, it’s not that bad.”
DYKE NELSON, founder and lead designer, DNA Workshop
According to hospitality market research firm, Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, outdoor seating can increase restaurant revenue by an average of 30%. But, cautions Nelson, there are a multitude of factors that each restaurant should weigh before taking the plunge, including climate control mechanisms like ceiling fans and portable heaters, proximity to the kitchen and noise buffers.
And in the case of installing a rooftop bar, one factor trumps all, says Nelson.
“You have to make sure the roof won’t leak,” he says. “It has to be completely water tight.”
Patio spaces have become more common in Baton Rouge, with popular spots like Red Zeppelin and Zippy’s successfully sustaining outdoor seating options thanks to overhangs that mitigate both sun and rain.
Beausoleil restaurant chef and managing partner Jeff Conaway says his Bocage Village eatery has benefited a lot from having an outdoor patio, and sees it as a way to make the restaurant more family friendly.
“It’s a good fit for brunch when people want to come and hang out,” says Conaway. “We’re considering expanding it and adding more things for kids to do.”
One of the most cost effective ways of adding outdoor dining is through sidewalk seating, or parklets, a national trend advanced by the American Society of Landscape Architects and other planning organizations. Parklets enable restaurants and cafés to use the sidewalk or parking spaces outside their establishment for temporary or permanent outdoor seating. The strategy has been used by the Magpie Café at their Third and Laurel Street location, and it’s also being considered by other downtown Baton Rouge restaurants.
“We have talked with several businesses that are interested in doing this type of thing,” says Haley Blakeman, executive vice president of the Center for Planning Excellence, which has facilitated the idea.
CPEX has also led Park(ing) Days in both downtown and Mid City where parking spaces are taken over for one- to two-days and converted to a sidewalk café or small park. Like pop-ups and other restaurant events, future Park(ing) Days could provide eateries with fleeting, but highly marketable, outdoor dining opportunities without the expense of constructing patios or rooftop additions.