Following a heated debate, residents of the Southeast Como neighborhood voted last night to support a liquor license upgrade for Sportsmans Pub and Grille, on the corner of 22nd and Como avenues southeast.
If approved by the Minneapolis City Council, the upgrade would allow owner Joe Radaich to serve beer above 3.2 percent alcohol and wine.
The nine to four vote was preceded by concerns from area residents regarding the possible lack of parking, noise violations and rowdy student behavior.
Radaich said University students are maligned.
“I think it’s unfair that all the trouble is attributed to University students,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s hard to explain to the neighbors.”
Radaich said he thinks the upgrade, which comes with the stipulation that food must be served with the alcohol, will attract a different, older clientele.
Radaich said many people over 30 are turned off by the reputation of 3.2 percent beer.
“One of my customers said to me, ‘If you’re gonna have a beer bar, you might as well have good beer,’ ” Radaich said.
Chris Kortsha, a University sophomore in international business and Como resident, said he knew certain people who avoided the bar because it only has 3.2 percent beer.
“I wouldn’t go to a place if I knew it was watered-down beer,” Kortsha said.
Stewart Rudi, a neighbor of the bar, said he was “intrigued by the aspect in change of clientele.”
“The clientele we are seeing now are not serving the community,” said Rudi, who voted to support the license change. “My vote is a vote against the way it is now.”
As part of the license, the pub also is seeking an upgrade in entertainment.
Currently the bar has karaoke, but Radaich said he is looking to add acoustic one-person music performances, where musicians can play sets.
“It’s a cool chance for people who haven’t really played out before,” he said.
Across the street from Sportsmans is Manning’s Cafe and Bar, which has the strong beer and wine license Radaich is seeking. Owner Larry Manning said he doesn’t feel his neighbor’s upgrade would affect his business, but added that after Radaich’s hearing goes through, he’s planning on applying for a hard liquor license.
“We both have the drive to improve ourselves and make a better business,” Manning said. “Let Joe (Radaich) accomplish what he needs to do.”
The license also requires businesses under 70 acres to have a 70 percent food revenue and a 30 percent alcohol revenue.
Radiach said he would like to expand his menu to include pastas and homemade pizzas in order to draw more of the neighborhood and after-work crowd.
He said it’s unfortunate that neighbors feel unwelcome at his place. He said he hoped his bar would be similar to the bars in St. Joseph, Minn., which are near the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, where he went to college.
“The ‘townies’ and the students would mix,” Radaich said. “That’s what I envisioned when I bought this place.”
Local residents said they view Sportsmans as a place where they aren’t welcome.
Zoë Vaughter asked Radaich how he was going to market to an over-30 crowd. She said she was concerned that Radaich was viewing his business as a bar and not as a restaurant.
Residents were also concerned about noise from the bar, which Radaich said he would resolve by installing air conditioning that would allow him to shut the windows and keep noise in.
Kortsha said the noise from the bar isn’t too bad. Kinesiology junior Dave Lorenz, who lives up the street, said: “It’s noisier in front of our house than it is down there.”
Maria Plonski, a resident and license supporter, said Sportsmans doesn’t necessarily affect the amount of noisy, drunk people.
“Do you think if there aren’t any bars in this neighborhood that house parties wouldn’t still go on?” Plonski said.
Second Ward Council Member Paul Zerby, who attended the meeting to hear residents’ concerns and will vote on the issue, said he was pleased by Radaich’s willingness to adjust, adding he appreciated the resident input.