city hall update // Patio restrictions dead for now as restaurants volunteer changes

City Council Member Meg Tuthill’s proposed restrictions for outdoor patios are dead for now, as restaurant owners in Uptown have volunteered to try a few other methods for curbing late night noise. 

Tuthill had proposed cutting outdoor music at 10 p.m., requiring patio bars to serve wait staff, not customers, and enforcing stricter capacity limits. After backlash from her colleagues on the council, the Ward 10 council member instead convened a taskforce of neighbors, city regulatory staff and restaurant owners to come up with solutions. 

That group came up with a list of ideas for mitigating noise: a hush program that is already being used and reminds patrons they’re in a neighborhood and to keep their voices down; voluntarily reducing hours of amplified music; promoting the new parking facility at MoZaic and increased police patrols. 

The plan also has a couple broader initiatives, such as increased management of outdoor patios and enhanced communications with patrons and neighborhoods. 

“I have confidence that this is going to be a real positive move for our community,” Tuthill said. 

The real test will come when warm weather hits and the school year ends, Tuthill said. Even though her patio ordinance is dead, she said she could still author a new one. 

“If it doesn’t work, we’re going to have to look at other solutions, which I know will be issues the businesses and a lot of the community — not so much the community, but the people who come to Uptown — won’t be happy with,” she said. “But I’m going to take a positive note, and I’m going to count on this working.”

A few changes are already underway, which Tuthill says have already helped with noise issues. In addition to the hush program, the city has opened up several taxi stations that help get patrons out of Uptown at bar close, instead of having the patrons walk around when neighbors are trying to sleep. 

Dan McElroy, president of Hospitality Minnesota, said the addition of MoZaic offers more parking for patrons to keep them off residential blocks. It also has provided price competition for Calhoun Square’s ramp. 

Tuthill said the taskforce included Parasole Restaurant Holdings and Stella’s Fish Cafe representatives. Stella’s and Parasole’s Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group boast two of the largest Uptown patios. 

Council actions buy OccupyMN more time 

Facing a resolution that would put an end to their campout on Peavey Plaza, OccupyMN protesters will have until at least early May to continue their around-the-clock occupation of the city-owned property. 

Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) on April 13 introduced a resolution that would establish rules against camping on a public plaza in the city. 

Gary Schiff (Ward 9) made a substitute motion to refer the resolution to the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee for a public hearing. His motion passed 11-2.

The hearing was originally scheduled for April 18, but due to a notification error was bumped back to May 2. 

With Occupiers expecting a fight on April 18, the Public Safety Committee chair Don Samuels let about a dozen protesters speak to the committee. 

“What you’re trying to do is restrict our ability to peaceably assemble,” said Osha Karow of OccupyMN. 

Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) has supported OccupyMN since its early days, authoring a resolution at the City Council last fall to support the movement.

“I think that this resolution is a solution in search for a problem,” Hodges said. “This is unnecessarily divisive and unnecessarily oppressive at a time when we all need to be working together on a solution of values we all share.”

Johnson said her resolution addresses a livability issue. 

“I’m concerned about public use in a city where we have 380,000 people that live here, 150,000 that work in our downtown every day, and 32,000 people that live in our downtown,” Johnson said.  “When you have a city, you have to balance the interests of groups.”

Reach Nick Halter at [email protected]