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Proposal targets food-to-alcohol ratios in Mpls. restaurants

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 23, 2014 - 6:22 PM

City mandated ratios of food to alcohol sales in restaurants could soon be eliminated under a proposed ordinance change that has been revived by several Minneapolis council members.

The city currently requires about 100 restaurants outside of downtown to make at least 60 percent of their revenue from food, which has only grown harder to meet as craft beers have become popular. It was intended to keep serious drinking out of the neighborhoods after repeal of the city's liquor patrol limits.

The city generally has generally tried to work with out-of-compliance businesses to increase food sales rather than taking harsh enforcement actions, however.

An effort by council member Gary Schiff in 2013 to change the language never advanced. Three council members said Friday they are pushing forward with that effort, and hope to add new language to city code about management responsibilities, server training and adverse action against problem restaurants.

"We seek to create policy that enables our restaurant industry to succeed in a responsible manner," said council members Linea Palmisano, Elizabeth Glidden and Jacob Frey in a statement.

Removing the "60/40" requirement dovetails with a similar movement to eliminate a more restrictive "70/30" provision in the city's charter, aimed more at restaurants outside of major commercial nodes. That will likely require a referendum, however, since charter changes are harder to make.

The precise language of the ordinance was not released on Friday.

Here is the full statement from the council members:

At this morning’s full City Council session, we were pleased to introduce notices of intent to amend section of our city’s alcohol ordinances. We specifically plan to remove the food to beverage sales requirement ratios while adding other sections describing expected management responsibilities, server training, and increasing ability to take adverse action against problem establishments. The amendment will extend the community outreach notification for establishment of liquor licensing and refine definitions of bar area and menu service.  We seek to create policy that enables our restaurant industry to succeed in a responsible manner. 

We take great pride in our local food scene.  Our restaurant culture has grown and we value and celebrate an increasingly diverse mix of restaurants and eateries. Part of fostering this and enabling local entrepreneurs to thrive include the need for better rules and tools for both restaurants and regulators. To that end, it is in everyone’s interest to update these regulations so they can facilitate good neighbor regulation while also assuring fair and just enforcement.  Safety and regulation of liquor and beer in the Minneapolis restaurant industry is of paramount importance as we work to enhance our restaurant culture. 

We have been working with staff and in collaboration with local restaurant owners and industry representatives.  We are further encouraged by the recent state action on the liquor omnibus bill that provides cities with additional enforcement power when necessary to remove a bad actor, and our Charter Commission’s intent of a public hearing on the “70/30 Charter” provision.

It is timely to consider amendments to our ordinances and we invite this public conversation.

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