Lakeside businesses struggle after pavilion fire

Lola on the Lake has had a tough summer between its home pavilion burning down, an extremely rainy season and extended beach closures at Bde Maka Ska due to E. coli. Photo by Andrew Hazzard 

When a fire consumed the lakeside pavilion at Bde Maka Ska in May, Lola on the Lake’s plan for a sophomore year revival went up in smoke and conditions haven’t improved much since.

“After the fire there were 40 days and 40 nights of rain, and then instead of locusts, we got E. coli,” Lola owner Louis King said.

The summer has been a tough one around Bde Maka Ska. Minneapolis is experiencing an extremely wet summer, and high E. coli levels have closed beaches around the lake. With no covered seating and fewer lake visitors during storms, business has been sparse.

“The rain has been the biggest detriment to our business,” King said.

The same has been true for Wheel Fun Rentals, where manager Lizzy Rode said the weather has driven down rentals of bikes and watercraft around the lake. Wheel Fun has been busy on nice days, but they’ve noticed the impact of losing the pavilion, with smaller crowds in the evenings than in past summers.

The fire left Lola, Minneapolis Sailing Center and Wheel Fun Rentals without running water or electricity. The businesses have had to adjust to generator power.

“It’s kind of the new normal,” Rode said.

It might remain normal for some time. Right now, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board believes it could take two years or longer to replace the refectory.

For Lola, the fire forced them to cut down on staff and change their menu options.

“We had to throw the business model out the window,” King said.

Now they’re running out of a red trailer, cooking part of their food at off-site kitchens and hauling in pounds of ice throughout the day. The menu has become more barbeque heavy, and they’ve partnered with DoorDash to try to expand their delivery business.

When weather permits, business has been pretty solid, King said, with people showing up and being supportive.

Now he’s trying to schedule a series of events with live music, games and barbecue. The first, held Aug. 17, was dubbed the Chain of Lakes BBQ Festival. He hopes to hold a “Back to School Blues” party in mid-September and an Oktoberfest gathering the following month.

He hopes people will come down to support Lola and other lakeside businesses into the fall.

“Everybody’s hanging in there together,” King said.


Lola on the Lake, Wheel Fun Rentals

Where: 3000 E. Calhoun Parkway