Efforts to tighten Minneapolis liquor laws get cool reception

Two ordinances aimed at cracking down on loud, outdoor patios as well as opening liquor stores near schools got a cool reception at a Minneapolis committee meeting today.

Council Member Meg Tuthill (Ward 10) authored both ordinances and they had a public hearing before the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee.

The first ordinance would impact all bars and restaurants outside downtown Minneapolis. Tuthill’s ward includes bars like The Drink, Stella’s and Uptown Cafeteria, which are known for their popular late-night rooftop patios.

The proposed changes include:

—    Limiting how many people can use the outdoor area at one time. An establishment could only have as many guests in the outdoor as it has chairs.

—    Requiring that establishments turn off outdoor music after 10 p.m.

— Alcohol could only be served at outdoor tables, not at an outdoor bar. In other words, patrons could not belly-up to a bar if it’s outside.  

—    Bar staff would have to post a sign in the outdoor area telling patrons to “refrain from creating excessive noise and to respect neighboring resident and property.”

—    Establishments would have to clean up trash after bar close, within 100 feet of the bar.

Council Member Gary Schiff (Ward 9) questioned how the seating ordinance would address any problems with noise in the neighborhoods.

The ordinance was tabled for two weeks after Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) told the committee the measure would have unintended affects. Though the ordinance is aimed at residential areas and not downtown, some bars right on the edge of downtown would be subject to the new ordinance.

Goodman used the example of Joe’s Garage near Loring Park. That restaurant has a big, rooftop patio but because it is technically outside of downtown, it would have to follow the proposed ordinance.  

Joe’s Garage, Goodman said, is not a problem in its neighborhood.

“I don’t want to fix what’s not broken,” she said.

The other ordinance related to liquor stores near schools. Liquor stores are subject to many spacing requirements in the city. One of which is that their front door cannot be within 300 feet of the front door of a school or church.

Tuthill’s ordinance would change that so that a liquor store’s front door must be at least 300 feet from a school or church’s property line, not its front door.

There are very few places left outside of downtown that meet city laws for opening a new liquor store. However, one of those spaces is 2546 Hennepin Ave. S. That’s the current site of a US Bank, but according to the landlord US Bank will be closing that location in September.

Dan Kerkinni is applying for a conditional use permit from the city to open a liquor store in that space. The front door, he said, is 450 feet from the front door Jefferson Elementary, which is across Hennepin Avenue.

Jefferson Elementary’s front doors sit hundreds of feet from Hennepin Avenue, but  students use the grassy area in between as a playground.

Kerkinni said he met with Tuthill a month ago to let her know of his plans, and said he feels she wrote this ordinance as a way to prevent him from opening his businesses.

“I have not been out in the neighborhood to work against this ordinance,” Tuthill said. “I have been approached … from people that have heard of the potential for a liquors store going in across the street from a school. People are very concerned about it.”

Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) said she would not vote for Tuthill’s ordinance, but the ordinance was forwarded with no recommendation and council members asked staff to find out what implications the ordinance would have beyond Hennepin Avenue.