University area beer sales spots expand

While another fast-casual restaurant wants to sell beer, one avoids alcohol sale.

A selection of alcoholic beverages are presented to customers before they reach the cash register at the Punch Pizza located in Stadium Village.

Kathryn Chlystek

A selection of alcoholic beverages are presented to customers before they reach the cash register at the Punch Pizza located in Stadium Village.

Benjamin Farniok

More choices will soon be available for those looking to grab a bite and a beer in the University of Minnesota’s Stadium Village neighborhood.
Blaze Pizza will begin selling alcoholic beverages after getting approval for a strong beer and wine license through the city on Friday. Blaze will join the growing crowd of “fast-casual” spots in Stadium Village offering alcoholic drinks. 
Area restaurants like My Burger, Punch Pizza, and Noodles and Company already offer customers the ability to get a beer or wine with their meals.
The other Minnesota location of Blaze Pizza offers beer and wine, said John Tyler, Operating Partner for Team DHW, the company that owns the establishment.
Tyler said they were looking to offer mainstream and local beers, like those from Surly Brewing, which operates a taproom nearby. 
The Stadium Village site aims to sell beer partially because many patrons have asked for it, including visitors during the Minnesota Vikings game last Sunday, Tyler said.
Stephanie Shrider, a computer science sophomore, said she would be more likely to go to a place like Blaze if it sold beer because it’s a good alternative to traditional bars.
“I feel like it escapes the bar scene,” she said.
Across campus in Dinkytown, Mesa Pizza has operated for almost a decade and has never offered beer to its customers.
Nate Coles, manager at Mesa Pizza, said there are a few reasons why the business doesn’t sell alcohol.
“Ultimately, we are looking at our bar rushes at night and thinking about IDing people and what a headache that would be,” he said. 
Matt Tompkins, a former manager at the restaurant, said the tendency for late-night customers to come in after drinking and a lack of space also had impacts on the decision not to serve alcohol. 
On top of the slowdown checking IDs might cause, Coles said the pizza joint has avoided selling liquor due to the abundance of bars in the area.
“You can get a drink almost anywhere up and down Dinkytown,” he said.
In the four block area at the heart of Dinkytown, there are five bars. Stadium Village also has four bars, but those establishments are spread over a larger area.
While Mesa Pizza may not be selling beer anytime soon, Coles said they’ve had conversations about selling beer and wine at the other sites, like in Stadium Village, just up the street from Blaze.
Noodles and Company, another Stadium Village business, also sells beer to its customers.
Offering of beer and wine differentiates the restaurant from fast food in the area, said Jarrell Knox, a manager at Noodles and Company.
John Tyler agreed that selling beer and wine gives the restaurants a different feel from the fast food 
“How many fast food places offer beer and wine?” he said. “I don’t think I can name one off the top of my head.” 
Beer and wine aren’t a necessity for fast-casual restaurants, said Robert Boulka, manager at Punch Pizza Stadium Village, but it does complement the products.
“It’s kind of an American standard — beer and pizza,” he said.