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Outdated law banning hats in Mpls. theaters may soon be gone

Movie buffs, take note: soon it may be legal to wear hats to the theater in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, a City Council committee will consider a recommendation from Council Member Andrew Johnson to repeal an ordinance that prohibits theater-goers from "wearing any headgear or conducting (themselves) in a manner which interferes unreasonably with the view or enjoyment of another person of the stage or screen or place of activity."

A report prepared for the council meeting says the ordinance has not been enforced "in modern times," but adds that doing away with the long-forgotten rule fits in line with a broader overhaul of the city's business laws.

In his first year and a half in office, Johnson has been on a mission to weed outdated ordinances out of the city code. Among the subjects he's tackled so far: animal shelter policies and backyard chicken coops, to the regulation of secondhand shops, and licensing for jukeboxes and ice peddlers.

The council's most high-profile ordinance changes this year involved getting rid of two laws that criminalized lurking and spitting. 

The full council will likely vote on the hats-in-theaters issue at its first meeting in August.

Mpls. authorities suggest W. Broadway fire may have been arson

Months after a fast-moving fire ravaged a historic block of buildings along a commercial corridor of north Minneapolis, police and fire investigators announced Tuesday that the blaze could have been the result of arson.

Authorities have asked for the public to divulge leads or other tips about the W. Broadway fire that damaged four buildings and left apartment and business tenants displaced on the morning of April 15.

"We're at a point now in this investigation where we're looking for the help of the public to gather further information," Sgt. Sean McKenna, a Minneapolis arson investigator. "There is a possibility that this was an intentionally set fire."

The fire started on the floor at the back doorway of Unbank at 913 W. Broadway, McKenna said. About 15 minutes before the fire started, a witness had traveled down a nearby stairwell and had not seen anything unusual. The fire grew abnormally and quickly spread through three other buildings including longtime grocery store Brix and the headquarters of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC).

Later, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tested samples and found the presence of ignitable liquid at the fire's origin, McKenna said. The flammable liquid in combination with the witness testimony and the building's door being open for somebody to get in, point to someone possibly setting the fire, McKenna said. 

"We need the public's help to come forward and help us figure out who did this, who jeopardized people's lives; somebody could have been killed and we need your help," said Anthony Newby, NOC director.

While there were no fatalities, renters and business owners say the blaze dramatically impacted their lives. Eleven apartment units were affected by the fire and between 19 and 22 adults lost their belongings.

"I lost everything...everything but my life," said Terrance Cargill, who lived in the 913 building.

Anyone with information about the fire is encouraged to call authorities at 1-800-723-2020.