Pavilion at Bde Maka Ska to be demolished

Lola on the Lake was destroyed by a fire in the predawn hours of May 16. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The pavilion at Bde Maka Ska that was ravaged by a fire on May 16  has been deemed unsalvageable and will be demolished following an investigation.

The pavilion was deemed a total loss by structural engineers who examined the site Friday morning, according to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spokesperson Dawn Sommers.

The Minneapolis Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire, which erupted during a thunderstorm shortly after 4 a.m. on May 16.

An insurance investigator will conduct an assessment early next week, according to Park Board officials. Although the timeline of the insurance investigation is unclear, MPRB officials say they will move quickly to demolish the structure shortly after its completion to prevent environmental and public safety concerns. The area around the building will remain fenced off to the public.

“We are devastated by the loss of such an iconic feature along the lake. As difficult a decision as it is, removing the structure is the right thing to do and will allow us to rise out of this and begin moving forward,” MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura said in a statement.

With the charred aftermath of the fire so close to the lake and rains expected over the weekend, park officials fear the runoff could pollute the water. Silt barriers have been put in the lake near the pavilion to mitigate pollution.

“Removing the building reduces that likelihood greatly,” Sommers said of polluting effects of the fire.

Lola on the Lake, the restaurant based in the pavilion, may be back on the site as soon as Memorial Day weekend in the form of food trucks, according to parks officials.

Lola owner Louis King told the Southwest Journal he was hoping to be able to put food trucks on the site to keep staff working.

“We mourn the loss of the facility, but we are going to take care of our personnel and figure out how we can get back to business,” King said in a statement. “Lola’s and the MPRB will continue to be partners and make sure visitors enjoy fast friendly service and great food that people visiting Bde Maka Ska have come to expect.”

To make up for the loss of public restrooms attached to the pavilion, the MPRB has placed two additional portable toilets, one ADA compliant and one standard, near the site. Sommers said the toilets will be cleaned six days per week and additional toilets may be placed by the site if needed.

The boat launch and Wheel Fun boat and bike rental will be closed the weekend of May 18 and reopen Monday, May 20. The fishing docks south of the pavilion will remain open.

The pavilion is 89 years old, but is not a registered historical site and was not a Works Progress Administration project,  Sommers said.

Originally built in 1930 as a shelter, restroom and concession stand, the pavilion underwent a major renovation in the 1980s. The first restaurant to rent the space was Tin Fish in 2004; Lola took over in 2018 and had reinvented itself for its second season on the lake.