Support for loosening rules for liquor licenses leads in Minneapolis

November 7, 2018

Minneapolis voters appeared to be backing a change to the city charter that would make it easier for neighborhood restaurants to serve cocktails.

Ballot question No. 1 asked voters if they wanted to remove a section of the charter that gives the state Legislature rather than the city of Minneapolis control over the liquor license applications of restaurants in most of the city. Support for the change was leading in early results.

Currently, only restaurants within a 7-acre area around commercially zoned businesses can serve liquor. Businesses in the rest of the citys neighborhoods can serve only beer and wine, unless they get approval from state lawmakers a process restaurant owners say is unfairly costly and complicated. As a result, only a few restaurants tucked into neighborhoods are licensed to serve hard liquor.

With the change to the charter, restaurants that want to sell more than wine and beer would be able to go directly to City Hall for permission.

That change has the backing of many neighborhood restaurant owners, who say they are at a considerable disadvantage at a time when customers are increasingly interested in craft cocktails. It also won support at City Hall, where some on the council see it as a way to encourage economic development in several pockets of the city.

Council Member Linea Palmisano said turning the liquor license decisions over to the city eliminates an unnecessary long step for business owners.

This is something to try to help, she said.

The push to change the city charter is the latest in a series of efforts to update to decades-old liquor restrictions across Minnesota. In 2011, the Surly bill, nicknamed after the efforts of the Surly Brewing Co., allowed small breweries to serve beer on site. Three years later, Minneapolis voters approved a change to the city charter that dropped requirements that restaurants sell food with alcohol and maintain strict ratios of food and alcohol sales. Last year, the Legislature voted to allow alcohol sales on Sunday.

This years push to change the citys charter did not draw any organized opposition.

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