Ordinance change would allow more outdoor events at bars

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June 5, 2012 by Sarah M

By Nick Halter

Ben Smith opened Glaciers Cafe in the Longfellow neighborhood in the fall of 2008 after he and the property owner built a beautiful outdoor patio at his Lake and Minnehaha location.

Within a month, the recession hit and Smith struggled. He looked for ways to keep his business afloat. He wanted to do a summer music series where every Friday night he would have a musician or a band playing on his patio.

But city ordinance only allows restaurants to host outdoor entertainment for four events every year, not enough to get him through June, July and August. So he contacted Council Member Gary Schiff’s office, and now the City Council is considering expanding the ordinance to allow for outdoor events 12 days every year.

“How can you have a regular Friday night event and only have four events a year? It can’t be done,” he said, showing a reporter a picture of the work he had done to his patio.

The ordinance change would also give bars eight more days every year to “expand their premises,” or, in other words, have events in their parking lots.

Bars still need to get city staff to sign off on permits for their events.

The ordinance change narrowly made it through the city’s regulatory committee after a June 4 public hearing, as some council members raised concerns that notices of the public hearing were sent out on Memorial Day weekend and didn’t give neighbors enough time to respond.

Council Member Meg Tuthill (Ward 10) asked that the city increase its event notification policy. Tuthill, who represents Uptown, said neighbors would like to be given warning of a bar event so that they can plan accordingly for parking and noise.

For Smith, the new ordinance would be a welcome change. He has to close his cafe in May to revamp the menu and change the restaurant’s name to Mosaic. He plans to open again this month.

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