U-area bars upset by proposed liquor license restrictions

Dinkytown resident Meredith Norstrom knows first-hand the problems related to excessive drinking and partying.

Her house, located at 410 13th Ave. S.E., has been a target for vandalism and crime.

“It’s getting weary,” she said after the third attempted break-in this school year. She blames the crimes on the traffic flowing between the bars. “This is hopeless.”

After hearing complaints from Dinkytown residents, Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, crafted a proposal to limit the number of liquor licenses issued in the areas surrounding campus. But bar and restaurant owners say limiting licenses is not a solution to the problem.

In early August, Zerby introduced a proposal that would deny new on-sale liquor license applications to businesses in Dinkytown and Stadium Village. In addition, businesses that already have licenses would be ineligible for renewal if ownership changes or the business is sold.

Some exceptions include special charter licenses and businesses with gross annual food sales of 70 percent or more. Zerby said these exceptions are designed to encourage bars and restaurants to sell more food than alcohol.

However, Zerby’s proposal has some business owners in Dinkytown and Stadium Village furious. Stub and Herb’s owner Sue Jeffers said the ordinance “takes aim at independent bar owners.”

She expressed concern over the renewal stipulations in the proposal, adding that she would not be able to turn over the 64-year-old restaurant to her children.

At a meeting Thursday, Dinkytown and Stadium Village business owners voiced many of their concerns to Zerby.

“It was a very heated meeting,” Jeffers said.

While bar owners maintain that their establishments are not the problem, Zerby looks at the situation differently.

“We need to keep the city and neighborhoods around the University a livable place,” he said. “Neighbors see the ugly side of binge drinking when the bars empty.”

Although bars are a small part of the issue, they are one avenue to pursue, Zerby said. Zerby also said he is working on other ways to reduce drinking-related incidents around and near campus.

He said the proposal would not mean immediate reduction in the number of bars, although that would be the result in the future.

Linda Patterson, co-owner of Bobby Z’s and Sally’s, said one problem with the ordinance is that it does not distinguish between responsible and irresponsible bar owners.

She said her restaurants take pride in training security guards and employees to minimize rowdy behavior.

“We’ve worked hard to establish these restaurants,” Patterson said. “It makes no sense to allow these places to have no value; we would have no value without a liquor license.”

Both Jeffers and Patterson also said none of their restaurants have had police calls or violation citations.

Lt. Jeff Rugel, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department’s 2nd Precinct, said some bars make more of an effort to keep the areas safe than others.

He said police officers know which bars are responsible.

Rugel also said it is hard to distinguish between neighborhood problems that come from bar patrons and house parties.

“Both (bars and house parties) have their problems,” he said.

“Parties upset the neighbors and are often loud and uncontrolled.”

Parties become a problem, Rugel said, when they empty out into the streets and people go party-shopping. The hockey riots were an example of this, he said.

Patterson said bars are being unfairly punished for what happened during the riots.

“We kept people in so they wouldn’t go out into the streets,” she said. “We’re being blamed for what happened even though the problems came from underage kids from the suburbs.”

Zerby noted that the riots did have an impact on his proposal, calling them the most exaggerated form of student drinking.

The increasing numbers of students living on campus have also added to the drinking problems, Rugel said. With more apartments and residence halls built in the last few years, more people are finding their way to bars and parties in the area.

Traci Toomey, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health, offered some insight into student drinking problems on campus.

“There are huge concerns right now,” she said. “Student drinking patterns are putting them at risk for STDs and violence.”

She said studies have shown a correlation between the number of liquor licenses in an area and the number of alcohol-related problems.

However, Toomey said changes in a bar’s procedures might make a difference. These include not over-serving alcoholic beverages, not promoting drinking specials and not encouraging 21st birthday celebrations.

In general, she said, house parties are a big issue when looking at underage binge-drinking problem areas. Bars, on the other hand, are more likely to check IDs and regulate extreme levels of drinking.

Although she said it is wrong to assume drinking in establishments is safe, Toomey said the drinking problem will not be solved just by focusing on bars and restaurants.

On campus, students have had mixed reactions to the proposal.

Amber Duick, a sophomore, said she disagrees with the idea that reducing bars will reduce drinking.

“If they limit bars,” she said, “students are going to find other places to go drink, like frats or house parties.”

Junior Scott Hallal said he was confused by the proposal.

“The bars are just trying to make money,” he said. “What if someone wants to change owners? They’re screwed.”

Norstrom, who has lived in her house for 60 years, thinks differently. She said the problem has become increasingly worse over the years.

“There is nothing that reflects well on students here,” she said. “They could drink all night long for all I care, if they would just stay away from my house.”

Business districts in Dinkytown and Stadium Village will continue to hold meetings on the proposal throughout the coming weeks. Zerby said he was hopeful the groups can work toward a compromise.

The Minneapolis City Council will hold a public hearing on this proposal Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. in room 317 of City Hall. Jeffers said she hopes students will come and be motivated to do something about the issue.