Minneapolitans for not freaking out

How a misaimed amendment to patio rules threw everyone off.

Mike Munzenrider

Minneapolis 10th Ward Councilwoman Meg Tuthill âÄî who represents much of Uptown âÄî caused quite a bit of controversy a month and a half ago when she proposed her plan to amend city ordinances concerning bar and restaurant patios. Once local media and bloggers caught word of it, a small firestorm ensued.

The proposed amendment would place a new âÄúmaximum user capacityâÄù on patios, prohibit music played on outdoor speakers after 10 p.m., and give the Minneapolis City Council expanded discretionary control over the use and hours of operations of patios.

The amendment was given a public hearing Feb. 9. However, according to Tuthill, fewer than 15 people showed up to discuss the amendment. Many of them represented downtown businesses, which are excluded from the amendment.

An unscientific Google search shows the local media started taking notice Feb. 25, when a Star Tribune blog post outlined the issue. The post also noted the creation of the Facebook page âÄúMinneapolitans for Going Outside,âÄù which at the time had 700 âÄúlikes.âÄù

Next to pick up the story was CitypagesâÄô Nick Pinto. In a March 3 blog post he exclaimed that the proposed amendment âÄúwould mean no stepping outside to smoke, no running into people and sitting down at their table, no getting a breath of fresh air.âÄù

Emily Krumm, blogging for Twin Cities Metro, kept the drum of hyperbole thumping. In an undated post, she wrote that the amendment âÄúwould limit who may drink, and what they may drink, on patios, rooftops and open-air spaces.âÄù

After lamenting the âÄúlegal jargonâÄù of the amendment, Krumm also wrote, incorrectly, that TuthillâÄôs amendment would ban drinking âÄúa bottled beer after 11 p.m.âÄù on a patio.

The prohibition on bottled beer outdoors after 11 p.m. is already in the existing ordinance, albeit a rarely enforced one.

Regarding the Facebook page, âÄúMinneapolitans for Going OutsideâÄù started by local restaurateur Kim Bartmann, it has more than 1,800 likes as of press time. Its comments strike the same tone as the already mentioned blogs.

Tuthill agrees. She had previously joined the discussion on Facebook. However, she said she would no longer do so because the page only offered a âÄúton of misinformation.âÄù

TuthillâÄôs amendment has its problems. The expanded discretionary control the City Council would have over bar and restaurant patio use and hours of operation is troubling. The language of the amendment is overly vague and does not say how the City Council would go about enacting changes. Public hearings are not mentioned.

While the amendment is problematic, much of the reaction to it has been overblown

All the while, TuthillâÄôs stated goal, as told to Citypages, is to decrease bar-related noise and vandalism in her neighborhood and others.

I donâÄôt see how the amendment could accomplish that.

IâÄôve lived next door to a bar in Northeast Minneapolis for almost a year. I deal with plenty of noise, getting parked into my driveway and picking up trash.

IâÄôve caught men in the act of urinating on my driveway.

The problem is that these issues arenâÄôt associated with the patio next door, which I love using. One especially blotto loudmouth can make much more noise than 20 reserved patio dwellers. No one has ever urinated on my driveway from the patio.

Tuthill is trying to fix a specific problem by the wrong means. At the same time, the debate surrounding her amendment has been both overblown and stymied by misinformation.

The amendment was temporarily shelved after its introduction for tweaking. Tuthill met with staffers Tuesday to review the tweaks, though it was too late to make this columnâÄôs deadline.

This story is not over. I will be following it on the âÄúUnfit for PrintâÄù blog at MNDaily.com. In the meantime, letâÄôs hope that cooler coverage prevails and the tweaked amendment offers real solutions to the problems at hand.