Lakeland bar plan stirs neighbors

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2012 - 9:51 PM

Family hopes to open a restaurant and bar near school.

A local family's plans for a new bar-restaurant in Lakeland has prompted upset residents to circulate a petition, hoping to kill the proposal even before it reaches the City Council.

Residents say they worry about loud music and patrons, bright lights, smells of grease and cigarettes, and devalued homes near the proposed Castaways Barefoot Bar & Grill, which would be across the road from a grade school south of the Interstate 94 bridge over the St. Croix River.

"We are aware of all their concerns and we are diligently addressing them across the board, and we are going to continue working with the neighbors," said Rodney Bahr, one of the owners.

"Let's just hope the neighbors will step up to work with us."

Mayor Brian Zeller said residents have legitimate concerns. A Planning Commission hearing Tuesday evening will gather public comment for consideration by commissioners, who are to recommend whether the City Council should approve the plans, he said.

Castaways would be in a vacant space on the south end of Lakeland Village Plaza, which would bump outward for an outdoor patio that's stirring the most concern, in part because it's across the road from a grade school, park and playground, opponents say.

The proposal was submitted by Colleen Humphreys and her daughters and son-in-law, Nicole Cherry, and Allison and Rodney Bahr, all of West Lakeland. They intend to provide 30 to 50 jobs, they said.

On Saturday, they held a neighborhood meeting to hear concerns and show pictures of Castaways. They say it will primarily be a restaurant, but also will serve liquor and cater to athletic events.

They want to show neighbors that they are working to address issues, including spending more than $25,000 on a sound wall between the patio and homes to the west.

"It is a great use of the available space," said Debi Erickson, owner of Lakeland Village Plaza. "It is intended as a family restaurant, neighborhood bar and grill. Our neighbors can walk or bike to get a good hamburger or fish fry on Friday night."

Police calls questioned

A letter to be presented to planning commissioners on Tuesday with the petition questions why the city would approve a plan involving Humphreys and Cherry.

The opponents point to St. Paul police records, saying there were 110 police visits to two bars owned by the mother and daughter from January 2011 through last month.

In St. Paul, Humphreys owns Sherwood Lounge on White Bear Avenue at Arlington Avenue. Cherry owns the Cherry Pit Bar & Grill at White Bear and Minnehaha avenues.

Bahr, however, said bar managers are told to make proactive calls to head off problems, which are more reflective of the neighborhoods around those bars than anything else.

He and his wife, Allison Bahr, own Tippy Canoe Pub & Grub in Osceola, Wis., where they also encourage workers to call police immediately to protect everyone and to "uphold clear standards." Opponents raised no concerns about that eatery.

Castaways Barefoot Bar & Grill would include an outdoor service bar, radiant heaters, a fire pit, flat-screen TVs and hammocks along with tables for "an outdoor sports bar feel," according to a proposal submitted to the city.

Some are voicing concerns because Afton-Lakeland Elementary School is across St. Croix Trail from Castaways.

Principal Tom Hobert, however, said he does not believe that pupils will be affected because they don't cross the road, and they couldn't see much from the school grounds.

Cherry said the peak hours for the school are not when Castaways would be busy, including nights and weekends.

There's a flap, too, over an ordinance that's raising questions in this situation.

City code says 3.2 beer can't be sold on-sale within 600 feet of a school, park or playground but does not mention other kinds of alcohol. Opponents say in letters that officials should consider the "spirit" of what is now a "faulty" ordinance.

"The City Council will have to address it because of the inconsistency," agreed City Attorney Nick Vivian.

It's among a number of ordinances that need updating, he said, but the question is when the council would take up the ordinance.

Vivian said there is no buffer required between schools and on-sale liquor sales in city code or state law, except for the local 3.2 beer ban.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

  • PUBLIC HEARING

    A hearing is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeland City Hall, 690 Quinnell Av. N., to allow residents to be heard on the issue.

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