New late-night restaurant slated for West Lake Street

Afterbar draws criticism from neighborhood leaders

A high-end, late-night, “Miami Vice”-themed restaurant being built at 913 W. Lake St. has drawn opposition from two local neighborhood groups.

The Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) and Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) each approved a resolution recommending the City Council deny the liquor license requested for Afterbar Restaurant, at which owner Robert Serr wants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. and close at 4 a.m.

The approved resolution, which CARAG drafted, recommends an 11 p.m. cutoff for alcohol Monday-Friday and a midnight last call on Fridays and Saturdays. A recommended closing time was not included, though the resolution states that Afterbar’s location is not appropriate for food service until 4 a.m. Supporters of the resolution are concerned about late-night noise, crime and other livability issues Afterbar might cause in nearby neighborhoods.

Serr, who has managed at La Bodega, Escape Ultra Lounge, Fahrenheit and other late-night businesses, said his restaurant would give people who work late shifts or happen to be out after bars close a place to eat dinner, get a drink and relax.

“I’ve been in the nightclub business for a long time,” Serr said. “After work, there was never anywhere to go.”

Afterbar’s location requires the business to serve 70 percent food and 30 percent alcohol. Serr’s menu lists dishes of several different countries ranging in price from $15 to $25. Offerings range from chicken wings to veal milanaise.

The restaurant features teal and pink colors and lighting, a tropical sunset mural and decorations that make it look like a scene from the popular 1980s TV show, “Miami Vice.” A VIP lounge complete with a TV that will cycle through “Miami Vice” episodes and showings of the movie “Scarface” and possibly “Carlito’s Way” is set apart from a large dining area and will be available for reservation, Serr said.

A game area featuring a pool table, poker table, foosball table and 1980s arcade games is also part of the restaurant, as is a bar that runs nearly the width of the building. A parking lot will be available behind the restaurant.

Serr said Afterbar is not the type of place that would cause neighborhood problems. He said he doesn’t expect the restaurant to be a hang out for troublemakers or people who have been partying all night in Uptown.

“I don’t want drunk people in here,” Serr said. “Just because you’re out at 2 a.m. doesn’t mean you’re drunk.”

CARAG resident Lanny Jordan, who owns property behind Afterbar, said he thought the restaurant would be a positive addition to the neighborhood. Jordan compared Afterbar to upscale late-night restaurants he has eaten at in New York. Minneapolis lacks such establishments, he said.

“It’s always been a problem at 9 or 10 o’clock if you want to get a meal,” he said.

Some area residents and business owners aren’t as fond of the Afterbar idea.

At a recent CARAG meeting, residents voiced concern about a lack of parking, noise from delivery trucks and customers, public urination, litter, graffiti, an increase in violent crime and other issues.

Dan Qualy, who lives and works in CARAG, said the restaurant would attract panhandling and other unwanted activity that could lead to more serious crimes.

“This will do nothing to reduce crime,” Qualy said. “It will only increase it.”

Residents are also concerned about maintaining the community’s quality of life.

CARAG has worked to limit the hours of liquor-serving restaurants on Lake Street between the Hennepin-Lake and Lyn-Lake commercial nodes because of the impact to nearby residential areas.

“We’re just interested in how (a restaurant) relates to compatibility issues and practicality,” said CARAG member Aaron Rubenstein, chairman of the group’s zoning committee.

If Afterbar were granted its requested liquor license, the precedent set by the neighborhood would be lost, Rubenstein said. So far CARAG’s attempts at limiting hours have been successful, even though the City Council does not have to comply with a neighborhood group’s vote.

Tum Rup Thai, for instance, was originally planned to be open later than its current 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday hours, but CARAG did not support a later closing time, said Manager Steve Hein.

The restaurant, which has been open at 1221 W. Lake Street for a little more than a year, also has restricted outdoor seating hours to comply with CARAG, Hein said. Hein said he would pursue extending his outdoor hours if Afterbar receives its requested license.

Hein and many other business owners in the area are supportive of Afterbar.

“Neighborhood groups think they are doing the best thing for the neighborhood, but businesses are trying to do the best they can to make money,” Hein said. “Sometimes it seems like the neighborhood groups would rather see spots vacant.”

Serr plans to open Afterbar in mid-September and is confident he will get the OK from the City Council by then.

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward) said the restaurant seems out of character with the neighborhood and 4 p.m. is too late of a closing time for the area. He said community support might not be required for Serr to get his license, but it would help.

“There’s considerable opposition to this establishment,” Remington said. “The owner has to find a way to at least try to work with the community because without community support, the business will fail.”

Jake Weyer can be reached at 436-4367 and [email protected].