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Wednesday: St. Paul: Thumbs down to late bar hours for GOP convention

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS
  • Star Tribune
  • April 2, 2008 - 9:30 PM

St. Paul isn't Las Vegas, so if you want to toss one back at the bar at 3 a.m., you better get on a plane.

That was the message the St. Paul City Council delivered Wednesday in opposing a proposal in the Legislature that would extend bar closing time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. during the Republican National Convention.

Council members -- many miffed that they weren't consulted beforehand -- voted 4-3 for a resolution asking that the proposal not be enacted and citing potential for neighborhood disturbances and a strain on police.

"It would be nothing short of a nightmare," said Council Member Dave Thune, whose Second Ward includes downtown. He said he wants to spare downtown residents the sight of "puking Republican lobbyists" in the streets.

The legislative proposal would allow cities within 10 miles of the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention will be held, to push closing time back during the 11 days around the Sept. 1-4 event.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who has supported the proposal, said Wednesday night that lawmakers need to repeal the law to give cities the option of longer hours. She predicted that proposal language would change and that St. Paul would have a chance to vote again. "They don't have to do it," she said. "Maybe St. Paul doesn't want to be a big city."

Council Member Lee Helgen, who brought the resolution forward and offered the Las Vegas reference, said later that bar hours weren't part of the proposal to lure the convention here. He said an analysis of some Fifth Ward bars shows a spike in police calls after midnight.

Council President Kathy Lantry said she understood the arguments opposing later bar hours and expressed concerns herself, but suggested postponing the vote to see whether something could be worked out. Council members Dan Bostrom and Pat Harris sided with her.

The cost for extending security has been estimated at about $500,000.

Mayor Chris Coleman said he has serious concerns about that cost. "However, I believe strongly that we need to work on this issue with other cities that would be affected," he said. "I am deeply concerned about putting St. Paul's restaurant and bar owners at a competitive disadvantage with other entertainment venues in the area."

Minneapolis city officials on Tuesday gave a generally cool reception to the proposal but decided against outright opposition. They're seeking changes to give them more control.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542

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