The city’s response to Jim Surdyk’s disregard for state liquor law took another turn Tuesday, as Minneapolis City Council members rejected a tentative settlement reached with the liquor store owner a week ago.
A 10-day suspension of Surdyk’s liquor license and $6,000 fine are not stiff enough penalties after Surdyk opened his northeast Minneapolis shop on Sunday, March 12 , a council committee said. Committee members ordered city staff to negotiate a more severe punishment.
Minnesota lawmakers this year repealed the state’s decades-old ban on Sunday liquor sales, but that repeal doesn’t go into effect until Sunday, July 2, and Surdyk opened his doors — and kept them open — despite orders to close from city officials.
“We went down and asked him not to open, the state called him and asked him not to be open, and he basically said, ‘Too bad, I’m not going to do it,’ ” Council Member Lisa Goodman said. “If he had shut down right after they came in and asked him to do so, I might have felt different.”
A new deal must be negotiated over the next month, the council committee said, and there might be a public hearing. Goodman said she has heard from “a lot of members of the public” about the matter, and they are not happy that Surdyk might have gotten off with a $6,000 fine and 10-day suspension.
Initially, the city slapped Surdyk with a $2,000 fine and ordered that his liquor license be revoked for the month of July, which would have been a crippling penalty.
The store on East Hennepin Avenue is an institution in northeast Minneapolis, founded in 1934 by Surdyk’s grandfather, Polish immigrant Joseph Surdyk. The business has evolved from a discount liquor store in the 1970s to a gourmet shop with fine wine and cheese.
Surdyk told the Star Tribune 10 years ago that the store’s sales were $25 million per year, meaning a monthlong closure would likely be a multimillion dollar hit.
But the city of Minneapolis said last week it had reached a tentative agreement with Surdyk’s that would impose a 10-day suspension to take place on the first nine Sundays starting July 2, plus a one-day suspension on a Saturday of the store’s choosing. Surdyk would also have to pay a $6,000 fine.
Surdyk attended the meeting Tuesday but did not speak. He said before the meeting he would have accepted the settlement.
His lawyer, Dennis Johnson, told council members that a $6,000 fine would wipe out any profit Surdyk made on the day he opened illegally. Johnson attempted to make no justification for his client’s actions, however.
“It’s simply that it was a bone-headed move,” Johnson said. “We need to deal with it, and accept any consequences that come from the city.”
Five members of the City Council’s Community Development and Regulatory Services committee — Goodman, Alondra Cano, John Quincy, Jacob Frey and Abdi Warsame — voted unanimously to reject the settlement reached last week. Only Goodman spoke at any length, though Frey thanked city staff for coming up with a deal that minimized the impact on Surdyk’s employees by spreading the suspension over several weekends.
Johnson said Surdyk just wants the problem to be resolved. He is hoping that time and the fact that his business has been a model of regulatory compliance for 40 years will help the city show leniency.
“In the heat of the moment he made a horrible decision,” Johnson said, as Surdyk looked on. “He can’t justify what he did. He screwed up.”