Booze buffers: why there aren’t more liquor stores in Uptown

Business — By on March 2, 2011 11:47 pm

For Uptowners who tipple or maybe just enjoy a wee dram from time to time, the current stock of liquor stores in the area is adequate in every sense of the word. Each has their perks and drawbacks — Lowry Hill has the “have a magical evening” Vikings-lover guy, Emerson-Lake doesn’t take credit cards, and so on. Most of us tend to shop at whatever locale is most convenient on a given day; if I want a sixer on the way home from downtown, Lowry it is.

But why not expand the retail choices in the area? After all, none of the businesses seem to be failing, and not all of the existing retailers have a very broad selection or are within easy walking distance of our apartments and houses. If an entrepreneur is interested in opening a new liquor store in one of our community’s many commercial properties, more power to them. Right?

Wrong.

New legislation drafted by Uptown’s own City Council Member Meg Tuthill expanded the “no sell zone” around schools and places of worship. The revised ordinance changes the rules to prevent liquor stores from opening within 300 feet of schools and churches’ property lines, rather than their front doors. The ordinance grew out of a desire to stop one particular businessman from opening a liquor store across Hennepin Avenue from Jefferson school. Given that most 13-year-old boys can’t grow a mustache, it remains unclear what the exact problem posed by the liquor store would be.

In any case, this raises a good question for anyone who has ever craved a can of Surly Furious (or handle of Jim Beam, if that’s your thing): where can new liquor stores open in the Uptown area? This map illustrates just one layer of regulation facing potential shopkeeps, but perhaps the most restrictive. City ordinances say that new liquor stores cannot open within 2,000 feet of another liquor store’s front door. And now we have Council Member Tuthill’s tightening of the school and church rules.

All of this means one thing: the continuing expansion of Uptown’s Moral Reef; its Sobriety Sector; Tuthill’s imagined Temperance Town.

Alliteration aside, what do you think? Are the new (and existing) regulations really necessary? How can they be improved? And perhaps most importantly, who is going to open a true craft beer store on Hennepin?Map showing geographic regulations on new liquor stores in Uptown

Note: this map is for illustrative purposes only, and shouldn’t be interpreted as the letter of the law.

19 Comments

  1. Jim S. says:

    Follow the money… Liquor store owners contribute to city official campaigns. In return they’re rewarded with additional restrictions to keep competition out. City council isn’t interested in the desires of the community… only the desires of their piggy banks. This is just disgusting!

    • Nathaniel says:

      Does anyone know where I could find a list of those who contributed to Minneapolis City Council campaigns (in particular, Meg Tuthill)?

      I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying that there is a conspiracy involving the City Council to limit competition in the liquor sales industry for financial reasons – I feel that it is more about creating a particular culture in Uptown. My thesis leans more in the direction of a cultural / age demographic conflict as opposed to anything else.

      Cities and neighborhoods are constantly changing; and more often than not, the established status quo feels as if they need to fight to preserve what once was. That is what is most likely going on here.

      • Jim S. says:

        You can see all the contributions at the city clerks office. Only problem is the records are based on the information provided by the candidates- Talk to the city clerk about the process. It’s an honor code system that’s broken. A $5,000 contribution will always be listed as $300.

    • RLH says:

      You can’t just follow money to a campaign, sadly. The MPLS City Council is known for and has a strong history of getting money under the table. Liquor store owners in the neighborhood a long time, like most of the stores already there, are making oodles of money. They can grease pockets really, really well. A new business owner – usually not so much. But then again, a Trader Joe’s almost made it’s way into the WORST PLACE EVER for a Trader Joe’s and gosh, within sight of another liquor store, to sell wine and liquor.

      And what I want to know is this: if it’s okay to have a bar with liquor, which is far more likely to have unruly patrons, particularly late at night, why isn’t it okay to have a liquor store? Walgreen’s is more likely to cause a disruption than a liquor store (especially if you’re talking about the one on Lake & Pillsbury).

  2. Nathaniel says:

    First of all, great job with the map. It helps illustrate your point masterfully. It would be interesting to hybrid this with a zoning map [from what I can see, there doesn't appear to be any viable commercial space available outside the rings].

    • RLH says:

      There isn’t. Most zoning for liquor is strictly limited to Lake Street and Hennepin Ave. Once you add the 2000 foot and 300 foot rules, there isn’t much left for a new store to open in.

      • Anders says:

        I did some light research into this issue, too… unless FirstTech goes out of business (which I really hope it doesn’t), there’s pretty much nothing suitable on Hennepin.

        Unless a certain property at the northeast corner of Hennepin & 25th could be rezoned from C1 to C2, that is…

        • Anders says:

          Well, Kowalski’s would actually be in the clear as well, but I’d rather see an independent shop (like the proposed one).

  3. Champs says:

    I’ve been taking my business slightly out of the way to Lake & Grand. They’re clean, open until 10, accepting cards, stocking good beer, and providing much less parking drama. Bike parking is still pretty weak, like the others.

    Sometimes success is defined as failing to suck.

    • brad says:

      The 6 bottles of wine for $36 is one the greatest deals ever! I always go to Lake Wine & Spirits. And no I am not getting paid.

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve heard rumors that there are still laws from prohibition that effect the area. It may be just on premise. But it would explain what there are very few bars that serve liquor north of Lake Street. Lake Wine and Cheese has a great craft beer selection and it is continuing to grow. I would love to see a “four Firkins” or “Ale Jail” type of Craft beer store in Uptown. I dont think it would be that hard to do with the right business plan and enough support(Which could easily be gained). Its almost to the point where poeple lobby to get a Craft Beer store to have different restrictions then Liquor Stores. They attract completely different customers.

  5. Jim S. says:

    Chris,

    The proposed plan this individual had was for a unique store that would carry a large selection of craft beer… It made no difference. City Council isn’t interested in additional competition. They’re slowly turning uptown into a retirement community!

  6. Cedar Phillips says:

    Retirement communities might have better access to booze. It was a retiree who told me a few years ago that he was a member of the “Scotch generation.”

  7. Cedar Phillips says:

    On the age/status quo issue, I’d be curious to delve into that a bit more. I’m hesitant to frame this too much as a “young” versus “old” argument (or in the school case, as a parents versus non-parents), as there are plenty of older people out there who have no problems with having liquor stores in the neighborhood. Interest in walkable, urban neighborhoods with diverse amenities is not limited by age alone. And as someone who has spent a lot of time working with retirees-turned-volunteers, some of them enjoy a good drink (or two) far more than many of the younger people I know.
    As far as culture of the neighborhood goes, the area used to be more blue-collar, and there were plenty of 3.2 beer joints around. My own great-grandmother used to stop off at local bars for a drink, even when she was old enough to be considered “old.” As far as I know she didn’t attend neighborhood meetings or donate to local politicians, so she probably didn’t make it onto the radar as part of the “local resident who gives money and makes a lot of noise” category. Although to be fair, I’m not sure who the people fighting for this ordinance change are, or what demographic they’re coming from. It could be a different crowd than the anti-height people.
    Also as an attempt to be fair to Meg Tuthill, after spending a LOT of time this summer combing through old copies of the Wedge newspaper (and other local news sources) and talking to long-time residents, things were a lot different in the ’70s. I’m sure that becoming active in neighborhood issues during that era made a permanent impression on Meg Tuthill and others who got their start then, so it’s not surprising that they have a tendency to approach issues through a very different prism than do younger or newer residents. I happen to think that they’re too-often stuck in a time warp, but I can (sort of) see why how the past has informed their views (as it does all of us).

    • Nathaniel says:

      Cedar,
      First off – great analysis. I wanted to respond to the comment, “I’m hesitant to frame this too much as a “young” versus “old” argument”.

      I previously made that statement and thank you for calling me out – it was a generalization that probably isn’t entirely fair. The real demographics and history of Uptown are hard to stereotype. The young v. old only really tells a small part of the story.

  8. ML says:

    I think generally its easier to get involved and passionate when you’re AGAINST something than for it. So the poeple that local officials hear from are the people who don’t want tall buildings and don’t want more bars or more liquor stores. Those of us that DO want these things aren’t as squeaky, so we don’t get the grease, so to speak. (Yeah, that metaphor was Friedman-esque, I know.)

    I generally assume the loudest people in my neighborhood are the people who disagree with me. Not sure if that’s actually the case, but it sure seems like it.

  9. Ian says:

    not withing 300 feet of a church? what happened to separation of church and state?

  10. John says:

    You know, if they just allowed grocery stores to sell beer and wine (as God intended,) this wouldn’t be such a problem. Imagine if Kowalski’s, Whole Foods, the Wedge and Lund’s all had the beer selection they would have in any other state. Imagine.

  11. Mimi says:

    The proposed plan this individual had was for a unique store that would carry a large selection of craft beer… It made no difference. City Council isn’t interested in additional competition. They’re slowly turning uptown into a retirement community!As far as culture of the neighborhood goes, the area used to be more blue-collar, and there were plenty of 3.2 beer joints around. My own great-grandmother used to stop off at local bars for a drink, even when she was old enough to be considered “old.” As far as I know she didn’t attend neighborhood meetings or donate to local politicians, so she probably didn’t make it onto the radar as part of the “local resident who gives money and makes a lot of noise” category. Although to be fair, I’m not sure who the people fighting for this ordinance change are, or what demographic they’re coming from. It could be a different crowd than the anti-height people.

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