Two ordinances may impact alcohol in Uptown

Policy — By on February 14, 2011 10:39 pm

March 1, 2011 update:

I’ve been in contact with Linda Roberts in licensing at the City about this ordinance and she said that the ordinance will be going back to staff for further review.

As background, the latest version of the ordinance that I’ve reviewed includes some of the following changes to establishments outside downtown (emphasis added):

-The City Council may restrict the hours of operation on any proposed outdoor area and may reduce the hours of operation of any existing outdoor area based upon proximity of the area to residential dwelling units, and upon considerations relating to the safety, repose, and welfare of residents, businesses, and other uses near the establishment.

-The City Council may also impose any reasonable and necessary conditions upon the operation of any outdoor area based upon proximity of the area to residential dwelling units, when necessary to preserve the safety, repose, and welfare of residents, businesses, and other uses near the establishment.

-No outdoor area shall utilize any form of sound amplification or outdoor speakers after 10:00pm.

-The license holder shall post in a conspicuous manner in the outdoor area a sign … which informs patrons of the requirement to refrain from creating excessive noise and to respect neighboring residents and property. The sign shall also contain an operating business telephone number that shall be answered during all business hours by a manager or other official of the establishment with the authority to respond to and promptly address complaints regarding the outdoor area.

-Any expansion [whether square footage or in capacity] will require a public hearing and notification.

In addition, the liquor store distance ordinance was passed and included churches.

Original Post:

The Southwest Journal reports that Uptown’s City Council Member, Meg Tuthill, proposed two new ordinances designed to further regulate alcohol sales and the behavior of those drinking in areas outside of Downtown, like Uptown. One proposal would restrict how outdoor bars and patios can operate and the other proposal would increase the effective distance a liquor store could be located from a church or school.

The outdoor bar and patio ordinance apparently would restrict the number of patrons to the number of seats, require patrons to be seated if drinking alcohol, require music to be shut down at 10pm outdoors, require businesses to clean up trash nearby after closing, require signage informing patrons not to make excessive noise, etc.

The other ordinance would change the distance calculation as it relates to the required distance a liquor store must be away from a school or church. Currently, liquor stores cannot be closer than 300 feet of the front door to a school or church. The proposed change would make it 300 feet from a property line of a church or school.

The Southwest Journal mentions that a liquor store is proposed for Uptown at the current US Bank location at 2546 Hennepin Avenue, which is across Hennepin Avenue from Jefferson Elementary School. The school’s property is within 300 feet of the front door of the proposed liquor store but the school doors are beyond 300 feet. The article quotes Tuthill and the proposed liquor store’s owner about the possibility that this ordinance change is the result of his proposal.

These changes were discussed at a City Council committee hearing this week and for the most part hasn’t been on the radar in the Uptown business community. Given that it could impact a number of Uptown businesses, it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, response the potentially impacted businesses will be.

What do you think about these changes?

Thatcher Imboden

How cities work and change, how they are the product of their inhabitants and outside forces, and the resulting livability keep me thinking and dreaming about the future. I work in transit oriented development and have a background in urban real estate development. I am Past President of an Uptown business organization, grew up in Uptown, was on an Uptown neighborhood association Board, and am an Uptown and Lyn-Lake historian.

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  1. Cedar Phillips says:

    Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. The SW article cites “people” being very concerned about the liquor store near Jefferson; who are these “people”? Are they local residents? Jefferson parents? I’m a parent, and I have absolutely no problem with a liquor store on Hennepin. The other proposed ordinance also seems kind of pointless. I realize that bars and alcohol do contribute to noise issues and livability issues, but we should be concentrating on the problems themselves, not lashing out at all bars or liquor stores as enemies of the neighborhood. These ordinances both seem like typical puritanical knee-jerk “all booze is bad” approaches to local life. I find that mentality to be of far greater concern than I do a liquor store in the US Bank site.

  2. Terrell says:

    Tuthill has to much time on her hands, another solution in search of a problem. In this case 2 solutions in search of problems.

    Not sure why different rules apply downtown which also serves as a residential area. 30-some thousand of us live downtown, Loring Park has greater population density than Uptown.

  3. Cedar Phillips says:

    About the trash issue: while I hate to see garbage on the streets, I also find it unreasonable to expect to hit bars with the ordinance, but not other businesses. Why bars only? I doubt that bars are producing most of the garbage in the area. I think it’s unreasonable to begin with, but if companies are to be required to take on sanitation duties beyond their own properties, why not EVERY business or property owner?

  4. ML says:

    Terrible idea. As far as the liquor store law, I somehow doubt that having a store in the US Bank location will somehow lead to a rise in crime near the school or an epidemic of 8-year-old alcoholism.

    The noise/vibration/harshness rules are just part of this constant ongoing battle in Uptown. Am I wrong to assume that this is mostly the work of a vocal minority of home-owning, older, long-time residents? LHE is something like 85% renters, many of them quite young, and just the sort of people to go to bars and drink outside. I can’t imagine they (we, really) are all that happy about this sort of thing.

    Uptown thrives because it is a densely built area with lots to do. Throwing up these sort of NIMBY laws at the behest of a disgruntled minority is not going to help the area continue to grow.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You would think someone who owned a small business would not use her position to legislate against small business owners. I’m specifically referring to the liquor store, but this could be extended to Moto-i, with their rooftop patio. That’s just one of a hundred critiques of this beyond-silly proposal. Next election cycle, I hope the “silent majority” (renters, younger people) of the Uptown area speaks up via the ballot box.

  6. I’m a longtime neighborhood resident and a grandfather. Meg Tuthill seems to be saying that I should have to walk more than 300 feet to collect my grandkid at school after picking up a pint of Jim Beam at the liquor store? Why 300 feet? Why not 250 or 350? For that matter, why shouldn’t the school have to move farther away from the liquor store, rather than the other way around? Liquor stores pay taxes, don’t they? When was the last time the city collected taxes from a schoolkid?

  7. Joel Haugen says:

    I bought a condo on Lagoon and Emerson in 2007 specifically so I could be close to the amenities Uptown offers, including drinking a beer on a rooftop bar while standing up and listening to music after 10 p.m. I hate when people come up with this kind of B.S. legislation. Deal with real issues, there are many.

  8. Nathaniel says:

    Uptown is a dense, diverse and unique place with a healthy variety of businesses, shops and restaurants and pubs that cater to an equally as diverse range of citizens. The population of Uptown has a healthy population of young people, families and seniors alike. Uptown is a truly exceptional, authentic and notable urban neighborhood that I am proud to call home – and one of the reasons I love Uptown is that I can walk everywhere, including the liquor store! Strict suburban-style Euclidian zoning restrictions (e.g.: liquor sales at 300 feet away from a school) will not improve the neighborhood’s quality of life nor damage the children who happen to be attending elementary school across the street.
    If a liquor store is to go anywhere, I find it perfectly appropriate to place it on a high-traffic road and in an already existing structure.

  9. Wedge homeowner says:

    ML you hit the problem right on the head. Exacerbating the problem is our city council member who has made it her crusade to fight progress and the majority to stand with her minority fellow long time, older neighbors.

  10. CARAG Resident says:

    These ideas need some modification or further review.

    But in general I do like an idea of all businesses around Uptown helping to keep our streets clean and being cognizant of excessive noise. It’s part of being a part of the community and taking care of it. This goes for residents too around where we live.

    I also need to read more about the liquor store to school boundaries. I do think specific to that area that we should do what we can to ensure beer bottles and liquor bottles don’t end up regularly tossed into and smashed within our school kids playground. If having a liquor store close by increases that likelihood, what steps can we take to prevent that?

  11. Thatcher Imboden says:

    I’ll weigh in now.

    Liquor store distance change: In general, I don’t think that churches or other religious buildings should be able to force a business not to open because it simply sells or offers a service that they don’t like. I’m concerned that it could then be applied to daycares, parks, etc. As for schools, I would want to know what problem this ordinance is trying to solve. If the concern is about trash (beer cans, booze), then perhaps a part of their licensing could require periodic picking up of alcoholic beverage containers around school property. I can’t imagine the concern is about 7th graders doing a “hey mister” outside a liquor school within view from school property.

    As for the outdoor patios: Having capacity limits on the number of people using a patio makes sense and I believe is already in place since it impacts sewer impact fees (SAC charges), fire code compliance, parking requirement compliance, etc. However, I don’t see why the City needs to dictate how the restaurant/bar reaches that capacity. If people want to stand and enjoy a cocktail, a bite to eat, etc. then they should be allowed to. Again, what is the problem that’s being solved by dictating that people must sit while drinking outside?

    In general, I think a clearer and more directly tied problem/solution would be better than simply creating rules that may not make much of an impact.

  12. Thatcher Imboden says:

    I would like to know more about what these proposed ordinance changes are solving. What is the problem of a liquor store being near a school or church? What does 300′ from the property line get you that 300′ from the door not get you? Why should a church get special privileges that daycares, outdoor cafes, parks, bus stops, or other locations not get as it relates to distance from a liquor store?

    As for the outdoor patios, aren’t there already capacity restrictions placed on businesses at the time of plan review and during business licensing? How does this tie into it? What will forcing people to sit while they drink accomplish? If we place limits on the number of people at a restaurant/bar patio, which should exist, why can’t the business or individual make the call as to whether they want to sit, stand, or lean to enjoy their drink?

    The issues of noise, trash, over serving, and occupancy concerns are very real and it’s notable that the City is trying to get a better policy in place to handle these issues. But if we’re going to change the rules, let’s ensure they’re reasonable and equitable. I’m thinking it’s unfair and unreasonable to ask a bar to clean within 100′ of their business right after they close, as it can be very late at night (and dark), and shouldn’t that then apply to all businesses?

  13. Cedar Phillips says:

    If any regulation changes are going to be proposed, might as well tackle the church issue head-on; there’s no reason churches should have ANY bearing on the location of a liquor store.

    Moving on, I would like to know what the concerns are regarding the school. Jefferson is an urban elementary school located in an urban neighborhood; their playground faces onto a busy street and their are all sorts of businesses near the property. Are the kids somehow going to be tainted because they see people going into a liquor establishment across the street? Or are we concerned that drunks will somehow make it into the schoolyard? If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be tackling that issue, not just assuming the worst?

    Like it or not (and unfortunately many of our more vocal residents, and apparently Meg Tuthill) don’t seem to like the fact that Uptown is a city neighborhood. Rather than try to regulate the life out of the community, why not try to identify the real issues? I assume those would be noise or garbage, not people drinking standing up, not sitting down. I can’t figure out the primary concern with the liquor store and the school, but assume that Tuthill is simply looking for an excuse to keep one out of the neighborhood.

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      Just saw a revised version of the ordinance change and they’ve apparently removed the word “seats” and added language about capacity not being exclusive to being seated. This does help.

      One item I hadn’t noticed is that the hours of operation of EXISTING outdoor areas for a specific business may be changed by the City Council “based proximity of the area to residential dwelling units, and upon considerations relating to the safety, repose, and welfare of residents, businesses, and other uses near the establishment.”

      What seems crazy with that is that proximity alone could be used as a reason for the City Council to abruptly change the hours of operations on a business. If I were a business owner with an outdoor area, I’d be furious that the City could strip away the ability to make money simply for no other reason that a house is nearby, even if there aren’t any problems. So if you get original approval to operate until 11pm and then a new Council decides that it thinks it should be 10pm (maybe because a new neighbor moves in and is surprised to learn the business has operated until 11pm for years). Just doesn’t seem right.

      But at the same time, I understand that sometimes the City’s regulatory side feels that it doesn’t have the tools to deal with trouble businesses and that having loose regulations can give the City Council authority to correct problems that they come across. Conversely, does this open the City up to legal liability if the law is applied unevenly across the City?

  14. Kristi, homeowner/mother says:

    I am a Wedge homeowner and mother of 3 small children. I think this ordinance is a ridiculous waste of time and energy. Our oldest daughter will be starting kindergarten in the fall, and we’ve recently toured Jefferson. If the concern is about the school – I can think of many other initiatives that Meg Tuthill could spend her time on – parent involvement, sense of community, pride in the school and neighborhood, and fundraising for the school/kids to name a few. This was all lacking when we looked at the school for our daughter. As far as our neighborhood goes, I’d rather see concern over the drug deals that have blatantly happened in front of our house, the enormous amount of trash we saw walking to Rainbow over the weekend, the vacant/empty/foreclosed houses, or the speeding on our streets. I’ve encounted Meg Tuthill a handful of times over the past few years and my impression is that she does a lot of talking, and very little listening.

  15. Chris Carag Homeowner says:

    Let’s get Meg Tuthill out of office before she wrecks the very essence of why we all love uptown!!!

  16. Meggan (Homeowner in Carag) says:

    Meg Tuthill should move to the burbs – I’ve heard it’s quiet out there.

  17. Josh says:

    This is a terrible idea. If any changes should be made it should be to remove the hours of operation limits. If someone wants to do business they should do business whenever they want.

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