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The city cherishes neighborhood input because those residents “have to live and breathe it,” Wilson said.
Many restrictions follow the city catching bars and stores serving alcohol to underage customers, most recently Crosstown Quik N Serve BP on Penn Avenue S.
The store agreed in December to have all employees take alcohol-server training, post signs to ban the sale of alcohol to underage people, do in-house compliance checks and use a calendar that shows the date when someone turns 21. Chicago Lake Liquors, Brass Rail, Rick’s Cabaret and other establishments all agreed to take similar steps after they were caught serving underage people in recent years.
Most businesses with conditions attached have few or no problems. But the city viewed Envy nightclub downtown as troublesome enough to threaten to revoke its license last year after the club would not agree with the city to stop 18-plus events or at least to separate underage and 21-and-up patrons on those nights, according to Wilson.
Regulators observed fights, marijuana smoking in the bathroom and a chaotic scene on 18-plus nights, especially at closing. Around that time, officials announced plans to strengthen city ordinances to give them more power to impose conditions on the licenses of troublesome bars, and Envy has since surrendered its license.
One case study
But the problem dates back years before that, said Scott Harris, a lawyer who has represented bars in disputes with the city.
One client was the now-closed Gabby’s Saloon & Eatery, which the city fined $25,000, told to reduce its maximum occupancy by more than half and ordered to cease free-drink nights, among other conditions, to remedy complaints about customers who littered and caused a disturbance. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in 2009 that the city went too far.
Now, Harris said, the city has given itself power it didn’t have back then.
“It’s going to be very unfairly used, I have little doubt about that, because [the ordinance is] just too vague,” he said.
Maya Rao • 612-673-4201