Chef Don Saunders

Chef Don Saunders

When a planned restaurant across from a Minneapolis school asks for a wine and beer license, that causes some ripples.
But it turns out that a proposed new restaurant across the street from Kenwood Community School is well within city ordinance and there’s even precedent for it elsewhere in the city.
Restaurateur Don Saunders hopes to open The Kenwood in a small neighborhood storefront just down from Birchbark Books. He’s shooting for an opening around Labor Day, and would serve coffee and pastries in the morning, brunch later, and dinners in the evening. He’s now chef at In Season at 5416 Penn Av. S.
Some neighbors expressed concerns at a public hearing Thursday on his application for a beer-wine license. They expressed fear about the potential for additional noise and traffic; others raised concern about the proximity of the restaurant across W. 21st Street from the school.
Turns out there’s already at least one restaurant operating with a wine-beer license across the street from a Minneapolis school. That’s Piccolo at 4300 Bryant, a ball’s toss from the playground of Clara Barton Open School. An earlier resturant there had the same license.
City ordinances forbid a bar or liquor store within 300 feet of a school. But restaurants near schools may hold wine-beer licenses providing they have no bar area and that they reap a minimum 70 percent of sales from food rather than liquor.  According to city inspector Greg Buenning, who conducted the hearing, that means no drinks may be served without food.  
Saunders plans 56 seats, with 48 at tables. He plans to be open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., but said he’ll probably seat diners only until 9 on weekdays and 10 on weekends.
Some still had concerns. “This is more of a destination restaurant,” said Jill Johnson, one neighbor. “It does not serve the neighborhood.” Au contraire, Saunders responded, part of his business plan depends on repeat neighborhood business, including, he hopes, a kid-friendly menu that may draw parents and their schoolkids after the school day. But he added, “For me to even consider making it, wine and beer is part of the equation.”
The application hasn’t been acted on by the City Council. But as Council Member Lisa Goodman noted in an e-mail to one constituent last week, “unless the operator is doing or had done something illegal or their money comes from an illegal use, all verified by the police licensing inspectors, a license shall be granted.”

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