A tale of two eateries: Jimmy Johns gets late night hours approval, but not Mesa Pizza

Two Uptown eateries. Both want to stay open until 3 a.m. Both have been cited once for breaking their curfew. Neither of them face neighborhood opposition. 

But only one of them got their wish. The city’s regulatory committee on Monday voted to allow Jimmy John’s in Calhoun Square to operate until 3 a.m. on weekends. A similar request by Mesa Pizza two blocks away on Lake Street was denied. 

Why did one get the approval and one get the cold shoulder?

“Problems, police calls, proximity to residential units,” said City Council member Lisa Goodman. “With Mesa Pizza it was clear there were all sorts of issues. Jimmy John’s didn’t have any.”

The City Inspector’s Report tells a different story. It says that neither eatery has had significant police calls. It also says that both have been cited just once for staying open past their normal weekend hours of 2 a.m.

Jimmy John’s has 30 residential units within 300 feet of the store; Mesa Pizza has 30. None of those residents responded to notices asking for feedback on the request for later hours.

On Nov. 5, the city cited Mesa Pizza for operating 15 minutes past its 2 a.m. required closing time.

On Oct. 6, Jimmy John’s was warned for staying open past 2 a.m. A month later, city inspectors caught Jimmy John’s again operating past 2 a.m., this time issuing a citation.

City inspector Greg Buenning recommended the committee deny both requests, but he did show a video of seemingly drunk patrons spilling out of Mesa Pizza onto Lake Street, yelling and trying to hail cabs at 2 a.m.

Grant Wilson, the city’s director of business licenses, said inspectors observed Mesa Pizza and Jimmy John’s on four occasions this winter. Jimmy John’s never had issues with late night bad behavior, but Mesa had issues two out of four nights, prompting the inspectors to videotape the behavior.

Mike Mulligan owns both downtown Jimmy John’s locations as well as the Uptown location. He said his staff was unaware that the sandwich shop had to close at 2 a.m., because his downtown locations were able to stay open later.

Goodman praised Mulligan for operating two downtown establishments without issues and for his work as a Meet Minneapolis board member. 

Goodman also noted that the CARAG neighborhood group voted on Jan. 17 to support the later hours for Jimmy John’s. No such letter was sent on Mesa’s behalf from surrounding neighborhoods. 

Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) said Mulligan’s effort to reach out to residents proved he is a good neighbor.

Mesa Pizza co-owner David Hathaway — who also owns locations in Dinkytown and Iowa City — said he reached out to both the East Isles and East Calhoun neighborhood associations, but was unable to secure a letter of support before Monday’s hearing. He plans to meet with East Isles on Thursday, with the intention of trying for city approval again.  

“We really would like to stay open until 3,” Hathaway said. “A lot of customers want to buy our product until 3.”