Let local businesses extend their hours

When city ordinances force businesses to close early, they miss opportunities to help out.

by Connor Nikolic

If they don’t have special licenses, most Minneapolis businesses outside of downtown cannot admit patrons after 10 p.m. on weeknights or 11 p.m. on weekends, according to the current city ordinance.

The City Council is voting Friday on an amendment to that ordinance. This amendment would allow businesses to keep their doors open later on 35 days out of the year, with closing times decided on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed ordinance was originally designed to assist Minneapolis residents who are Muslim, so it allows 35 days of later hours to cover the season of Ramadan and a few extra days throughout the year.

Businesses could potentially use these extra days for special occasions or celebrations when business may remain steady beyond standard closing times, like the Chinese New Year and the Zombie Pub Crawl.

Businesses should close to the public overnight because nighttime is generally an inefficient and dangerous time for doors to be open. This city ordinance is intended to protect business assets by ensuring that they lock up at a reasonable time.

However, when there is demand for later hours — such as during Ramadan — the city should work with its businesses to better reach the base of customers by allowing them to keep their doors open for longer hours.

Deciding the new hour restrictions on a case-by-case basis would ensure that different businesses have their own opportunities to work with the city to agree on a schedule that works for customers, while also keeping businesses safe and profitable.

Re-examining the successes and failures of those with exemption licenses annually would help signify if the additional hours have been profitable to the business.

Even though businesses are already able to apply for extended hours on a conditional use permit, passing this amendment would standardize and simplify the process.

A Cedar-Riverside business shouldn’t have to apply for more than 30 exemptions to cover the entirety of Ramadan.

If the amendment does pass, it will be interesting to see how events play out. If businesses are successful in the late-hour exceptions they receive for Ramadan or other special happenings, they may petition for even more hours to maximize revenues — impinging on the original intent of the ordinance.

Based on the interests of the parties involved and the need of specific communities, I urge City Council members to approve this amendment and allow businesses to keep the lights on longer. With one of the state’s largest Muslim populations concentrated in Cedar-Riverside, businesses have much to gain if this amendment is passed.