Ballot measure in Minneapolis seeks to change liquor sale rules

Without going through state process, only restaurants within '7 acres' can serve hard liquor

Sloane Martin
November 03, 2018 - 5:53 pm

ID 104848620 © Bogdan Hoda | Dreamstime.com

On the ballot in Minneapolis Tuesday is the option to change the city charter regarding liquor sales.

Since the 1970s when the city did away with liquor patrol limits, only restaurants within seven contiguous acres of central downtown can serve liquor besides wine and beer. According to Charter Commissioner Matt Perry, who introduced the amendment and is also the president of the Southwest Business Association, the radius was derived from how far a police officer could walk to enforce liquor rules, predating Prohibition.

Restaurants outside of that radius can still serve cocktails, but only once they go through a lengthy and expensive preemption process with the state. Some small restaurants find that cost prohibitive and say it puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Changing the city charter, according to supporters, would even the playing field.

Perry says the process can cost up to $20,000.

"What I think this will end up doing is is actually helping the restaurant industry, which is doing well, do even better in Minneapolis," he said.

Hector Ruiz, executive chef or owner of five restaurants-Café Ena, Costa Blanca Bistro, Don Raul, La Fresca and Rincon 38- said not being able to serve margaritas with tequila or mezcal "throws off" customers in a competitive city for cuisine.

"It's not that we're going to take business away, we never do," he said. "We just kind of want to make our restaurants more open so that people have more choices with this new trend with restaurants that we have.

"We have a really strong culinary (scene) in the city. That's what I would like to see: small restaurants in the neighborhood, that we have that chance to do that."

Both Ruiz and Perry said streamlining and localizing the liquor license process with the charter amendment will strengthen neighborhood restaurants and give customers more freedom with their dining choices.

"What this does is it provides local control and fairness by eliminating that need to go to that state and instead go through the regular liquor license process, which is a rigorous process," Perry said. "Even if you had a wine and beer license before, you would still need to go through through the liquor license process, so none of that would change."

Perry said he's feeling optimistic with no organized opposition. The biggest challenge is making sure people know about it in order to vote.

The measure needs 55 percent in favor to pass.