Wayzata loosens liquor license rules to be like other Twin Cities suburbs

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2013 - 2:21 PM

The council was expected to revise the ordinance for the first time in nearly 30 years in Tuesday's vote.

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Tim McCormick, owner of McCormick's Pub and Restaurant, said the lower required percentage of food-to-alcohol sales will help him stay in business.

Photo: Richard Sennott , Star Tribune

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Wayzata restaurants are cheering a city change that relaxes liquor license restrictions and makes the city’s ordinance more competitive with those in neighboring suburbs.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the city is loosening its liquor license ordinance so that a restaurant’s sales can be equally split between food and alcohol. The new law, which was expected to get the City Council’s final approval Tuesday, lowers the requirement that food sales must make up 65 percent of total sales.

That means places like McCormick’s Pub and Restaurant that have struggled to sell enough food to meet the 65 percent requirement no longer have to worry.

“The change in the ordinance will let us stay in business,” owner Tim McCormick said. “Without a full bar, we feel that would be difficult for us. We’re just trying to offer to our customers what they ask for.”

He said the small size of his pub and restaurant made it difficult to reach the city’s preferred food sales, often coming up short at 60 percent.

The new rule, which will take effect March 26 if approved this week, could also attract new businesses to Wayzata, City Manager Heidi Nelson said. The ordinance, which has been in place since 1988, will now fall more in line with other cities’ liquor ordinances.

Several metro area cities like Minnetonka and St. Louis Park follow the 50 percent food rule and in cities such as Plymouth, Bloomington and Robbinsdale, the food ratio can be even lower, with food making up 40 percent of sales. Others, like Wayzata and Edina, have had higher rates.

The discussion of relaxing rules on food sales came up last fall in Edina, where restaurants have to make at least 60 percent of sales in food. The possibility of reducing that rate was discussed because one business wasn’t selling enough food to comply. It also followed Edina’s move last summer to begin allowing happy hour specials. It had been the last city in the metro to prohibit drink specials.

Edina spokeswoman Jennifer Bennerotte said that City Council members decided to delay any decision on the liquor ordinance until they can see how drink specials impact the amount of food restaurants sell.

Last month, a check of restaurants in the city showed that all were in compliance, indicating that the drink specials weren’t making it any more difficult for businesses to sell food. But, Bennerotte said, that doesn’t mean changes to the city’s liquor rules are completely off the table.

“There may be other restaurants that are considering relocating to Edina,” she said, “but can’t because of their business model.”

 

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141

Twitter: @kellystrib

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