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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Update: Igloos at La Vetta are staying up (at least for now)

Update: Igloos at La Vetta are staying up (at least for now)

This story has been updated. See the post below.

Reservations for La Vetta's rooftop igloos are being put on ice due to what the city has determined to be a building code violation. The propane-heated igloos — with 270 degree views of Rochester's skyline — had become a popular outdoor attraction since going up in November.

"This is literally breaking our hearts to post, but we will not be allowed to have igloos on our roof," said Bruce Paine, the restaurant's general manager, in a post Wednesday on Facebook. "Our rooftop is twenty feet too high in elevation to have these types of structures on it."

Paine is referring to a building code that limits structures, like his igloos, from being on buildings taller than 55 feet. La Vetta's rooftop reaches 75 feet.

The Rochester Fire Department first began looking into the igloos last Thursday after receiving an anonymous complaint. Paine believes the tip was made by an individual with an "ax to grind" with the business.

After investigating, the department determined they did not meet fire code. 

"Membrane structures typically require a permit through the Fire Department, and are required to meet Fire Code," said Anissa Hollingshead, the city's communication director, in an email. "As they are, it sounds like the material of the igloos does not meet Fire Code requirements. The use of heaters, and especially propane tanks on the roof, is also problematic."

The fire inspector was able to work with the restaurant to ensure they could continue with their New Years's Eve activities. To comply, La Vetta installed smaller, one-ounce propane tanks designed for closed spaces.

"When it's about public safety," said Paine, "I get it."

From there, however, city officials noticed another issue: the igloos did not comply with building code. Paine is now in contact with the city's building safety director, Randy Johnson, to determine possible paths forward.

"We received so much support the first time they were taken away and couldn’t have been more grateful," said Paine, adding that they will continue to think of other ways to use the igloos, including possibly bringing them down to the ground-level Terza patio.

Citing a conversation with Johnson, Hollingshead noted while there are "concerns and requirements that need to be met," no one from the city "has actively sent a cease and desist letter or any such thing to the business."

"They are trying to figure out how to work with them on what is possible at this point now that the City is aware of what is going on, and can work with the owners on the requirements," said Hollingshead.

Meantime, an online petition to "Save the rooftop bubbles!!!" created by Josh Grebin has more than 1,200 signatures as of this writing (12:45 PM).

Update on 1.8.18:

To our community,

Here we go! We are open for service starting this evening. So many have reached out in support of this idea and have expressed care for finding a way. Our officials and fire department have as well. Are we safe? Yes! Another location just passed their inspection this past week using the exact same materials, heaters, and propane that we are using. We do need to find a solution for our location. While we find that solution, we are allowed to be open so I am not sacrificing any more jobs and income for more members of our community.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts as this really has been a story to tell. WE ARE OPEN! I can’t guarantee that there will not be any more surprises and we may have a couple days of construction at some point. If you had a previous reservation from tonight (1/8) through March, it will be honored without even calling. 

God speed,
Bruce and Team Terza:LaVetta


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Cover photo by Med City Beat

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