Restaurant Miami a step closer to receiving later hours

Roughly 60 people packed a hot room in the Bryant Square Park building July 30 to share their thoughts on whether Restaurant Miami should be granted later hours and a sidewalk café.

The 913 W. Lake St. restaurant — which has caused controversy in the neighborhood since it was initially proposed as a late-night establishment called Afterbar last year — is seeking to extend its closing time from 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 p.m. on the other nights of the week, to 2 a.m. daily. The restaurant also applied for permission to open a sidewalk café.

The July hearing was the second about the restaurant’s preferred 2 a.m. closing and sidewalk café. The first was conducted in June and was attended by about 50 people, most supporting the proposed changes. But a verbal altercation between restaurant owner Robert Serr and one of the establishment’s neighbors, Mark Hillyer, the night before the City Council’s Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee planned to vote on the changes postponed the decision and resulted in the second hearing.

“They would have had [the later hours] by now if that incident hadn’t come up,” City Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) said after the July hearing.

The restaurant’s existing hours came after Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) board members and others in the neighborhood expressed concerns that the restaurant might bring noise, crime and drunken behavior to the area. The neighborhood group has voted in the past to limit hours of businesses between the Lake Street business nodes at Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue because of their close proximity to residential property.

The city required Restaurant Miami to have a hearing after six months of operation so neighbors could weigh in on how the establishment was doing and whether later hours should be allowed. Both of the hearings this summer took place before the six-month mark because of slow business at Restaurant Miami due to Lake Street reconstruction.

A fairly balanced mix of people who opposed or supported the restaurant’s proposed changes attended the July meeting, facilitated by Minneapolis License Inspector George Pridmore and observed by Ricardo Cervantes, the city’s Deputy Director of Licenses and Consumer Services.

Those opposed to the changes expressed concerns about late-night noise, drunken behavior such as vomiting and leaving empty drink glasses in nearby yards, an increase in graffiti, parking congestion and a reduction in sidewalk space for an outdoor café. Proponents of the extended hours lauded the restaurant’s business practices, food and clientele and argued that the restaurant’s business makes the area safer and improves a block with little nighttime activity.

Remington said barring a license violation or city staff decision not to grant the restaurant its requested changes, the establishment’s owner would likely get what he wants.

The City Council’s Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee will decide whether to grant the later hours and sidewalk café at its Aug. 22 meeting. The committee’s decision will be forwarded to the full council, which will vote on the issue at the end of the month.