New snafu for sidewalk dining with alcohol. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! (Ross was right)

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After recording yesterday’s podcast at KYMN, Ross, Tracy and I sauntered down Division to the HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar to be among the first to imbibe alcohol on the sidewalk, courtesy of the City’s new sidewalk dining ordinance.

Jim and Joan Spaulding’s establishment was the first in town to complete the required paperwork, and set up tables and chairs with the proper boundary. They began serving alcoholic beverages last weekend.

Alas, we were told by one of the HideAway’s staff that Northfield City staff told them on Monday they had to stop. Some sort of approval was required by the City Council. Huh?

I phoned Joan this morning to confirm. She said was contacted by the City of Northfield’s Housing and Redevelopment Division staff person Michele Merxbauer on Monday and told that the City Council had to approve the deal before they could begin serving. She appealed to Community Development Director Brian O’Connell, to no avail. It was too late to get it on the Council agenda for Monday’s meeting, so they’d have to wait another two weeks till the next Council meeting.

The Spaulding’s busted their butts to get this in place for today’s Crazy Daze, so naturally, they’re angry. I’m angry that Brian and Michelle did not inform me or Ross (with his NDDC hat on) about this since we’ve worked on this for over two years. Nothing about this approval-of-each-applicant-by-the-Council requirement was mentioned when the ordinance was approved (May 19 minutes) nor when the fees were approved at the July 7 meeting (agenda packet p. 31). The Northfield municipal code has not yet been updated as per the Council’s directive:

ORDINANCE NO. 878 – AMENDING NORTHFIELD CODE CHAPTER 6, ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, ARTICLE II, RETAILERS, DIVISION 2, LICENSE, BY ADDING NEW SEC. 6-70, TEMPORARY EXPANSION OF LICENSED PREMISES; OUTDOOR SALES AND SERVICE, AND AMENDING NORTHFIELD CODE CHAPTER 14, BUSINESSES, BY ADDING NEW ARTICLE V, OUTDOOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVICE.

The March 17 version of the Temporary Expansion of Licensed Premises ordinance (PDF) has language that could be interpreted to meant that the Council has to approve every single application but I’m guessing that the Councilors had no idea that they’d have to do this… and that it would add at least two weeks to the process for a business owner. If I’d known, I’d have lobbied to have the language changed. It’s a Mickey Mouse requirement for businesses that already have gotten approval for their liquor licenses. City staff should be able to make the decision.

And worst of all, I have to eat crow. Ross was right.

Finally, let us remember that this process continues. We should follow the implementation, gather feedback from the businesses affected by the new ordinance, note the anticipated “sunrise” that follows the “sunset” of this ordinance next Spring, and be alert to any additional ordinances that may be proposed to change the way that the private sector may share the public space. Our work is never done.

5 thoughts on “New snafu for sidewalk dining with alcohol. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! (Ross was right)”

  1. And this proves Northfield needs a Mayor and Administrator (and hopefully some key staff managers) who have a run and business before and know the costs of mickey mouse municipal red tape.

  2. It is just absolute baloney that it is “too late to get on the agenda” for Monday’s meeting. It is a special meeting before the work session; any councilperson could ask for it to be on the agenda , and provide the necessary info right at the opening of the meeting. CALL YOUR COUNCILPERSON, WARD 1, J. POKORNEY!

    Things have been so procedurally nutso lately , that there are “greensheets”(last minute additions or corrections, or items pulled) at almost every meeting. The staff’s response to this is just ridiculous.

  3. I believe when Griff says it was too late to make mondays agenda he meant last mondays.

    This mondays is a “special” meeting and as such needs to be specific and limited in nature. Last minute additions are not allowed without at least 72 hours notice. Things can always be removed if needed at any time.

  4. Jon : Thanks for the info re:72 hours.
    You are correct that last minute additions are not supposed to occur, however, they sometimes do, and have been protested by the LWV Observers. Mary Savina protested this several times; and I believe Jane McWilliams, who has been doing the observing since you have been on council, has also had to formally make this complaint.

    Correct procedures are a goal, but are not always strictly followed.

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