New plan for troublesome bars in Minneapolis

  • Article by: MAYA RAO
  • Star Tribune
  • February 11, 2013 - 8:00 PM

Minneapolis could soon wield more power over troublesome bars, clubs and other businesses.

A city panel on Monday approved proposed regulatory changes that would allow the city to impose mandatory conditions on businesses that don't cooperate to fix ongoing violations.

The new rules would require approval from the full City Council. Under the proposal, the city could, among other measures, limit hours and locations where liquor can be sold, restrict the occupancy level in all or parts of the business, and limit the admittance of people under age 21 to areas where liquor is not sold.

The changes grew out of concerns last year about drunken mayhem and violence at bar-closing time downtown during weekends.

Several businesses pressed their concerns at Monday's meeting of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee that the rules could be too vague and even discourage investment.

John Barlow, an owner of Epic Entertainment, said the language of the proposed ordinance is overly broad and unclear about how many violations a business would have to rack up before the city stepped in. "The more people you have, the more propensity for troubles, for problems," said Barlow. "I don't think it's fair for us to put them in one category."

Dan DiNovis, who manages four venues with liquor licenses, said there are already rules in place for licensing staff to deal with problem businesses.

"But if a bunch of businesses have restrictions on their license, it makes it not a place for people to invest and do business. ... It's bad for new and current business owners," he said.

Fewer than 1 percent of licensees in the city have conditions, which were all negotiated. But on those occasions when business owners resist making changes, officials said, the city's only option is a laborious process to revoke or deny the license. City officials stressed that they would resort to the new rules only in rare cases.

Under the changes, regulatory staff would meet with the business to negotiate a voluntary agreement about conditions that would be imposed in an effort to prevent future violations. If an agreement were reached, it would go to the regulatory committee for approval.

If agreement could not be reached, a quasijudicial hearing would be held before the regulatory committee. If significant facts were in dispute, the case might be referred to an administrative law judge for a hearing and recommendation to the regulatory committee. The committee would then vote on the recommended conditions and forward the decision to the full City Council.

Businesses would have multiple avenues to contest the city's action, said committee chairwoman Elizabeth Glidden. "Mandatory conditions are something that would be applied when a business is at the end of the line," she said.

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

© 2018 Star Tribune