Tuthill responds to criticism of her voicemail to prospective brewery

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August 17, 2012 by Sarah M

By Nick Halter

Minneapolis City Council Member Meg Tuthill today responded to some serious internet backlash over a recorded voicemail she left with a prospective brewery that was interested in opening a taproom on 25th and Hennepin Avenue South.

Tuthill

The voicemail, which was left about three weeks ago, sounds pretty harsh. Here’s a link to the audio, and below is a transcript. A quick primer: The brewery was asking Tuthill to change a recent ordinance that required liquor stores to be at least 300 feet from a school’s front doors. The brewery, according to Tuthill, wants to sell growlers of beer, making it an off-sale establishment within 300 feet of nearby Jefferson Elementary.

I have an e-mail here that you would like to open a business in the Hennepin and Lake area. First of all, let me just tell you, geographically 25th and Hennepin is not Uptown —(just) so that you kind of know your neighborhoods.

Secondly, I love the statement that it says ‘being the first microbrewery in the area would be a great fit with our target customers and will help revitalize the Uptown area. Are you kidding? It’s revitalized, honey. It does not need to be revitalized. The reason you want to come there is because it is revitalized and it’s doing just fine.

However, you are certainly welcome to open your brewpub there, as long as you meet current city ordinances, and no I will not be changing the ordinance for you. I don’t work on changing ordinances, and neither do any of my colleagues, for one business.

Have a great day.

The audio was posted on Sound Cloud by the Minnesota Beer Activists. I called the group today to get the name of the aspiring brewers. The president, Andrew Schmitt, said the aspiring brewers would send out a statement tomorrow, but declined to identify them until then. Tuthill declined to forward me the e-mail the brewers sent because she didn’t want to discourage people from e-mailing her office.

Some have called out Tuthill, who represents Uptown and the surrounding area, for turning her back on someone who wants to open a business in a vacant storefront. Mayor R.T. Rybak’s son Charlie tweeted this yesterday after listening to the audio.

“UPTOWN’S ALREADY BACK, SO (Expletive) OFF, JOB CREATOR”

Tuthill said the brewery asked for an ordinance change or a variance. She said businesses can’t get variances for on-sale liquor licenses, so that left only an ordinance change.

“He asked for a change for one business, and our policy here has historically been that we don’t change zoning for one business,” she said.

That hasn’t always been true. For instance, Council Member Gary Schiff last spring authored an ordinance change to allow breweries to open near churches. He did it for the sake of Dangerous Man Brewing Company, which wanted to open in Northeast. The ordinance change passed, and Dangerous Man is working on opening the brewery by the end of the year.

“Schiff does that in his ward a lot. In my ward that’s not done so much. And it’s not done so much in the 7th ward (downtown) or other wards,” Tuthill said. “There are a lot of us who think we shouldn’t be changing zoning for one business.”

Dangerous Man, it should be noted, is planning to open in Ward 3, which is outside of Schiff’s Ward 9.

Here’s the strange twist in the story. It was Tuthill who authored the ordinance change back in February that would prevent growler sales at the potential brewery location. That was when entrepreneur Dan Kerkinni was applying to the city for a license to open a liquor store on that same intersection. He didn’t need an ordinance change. He just needed city approval for his liquor license.

At the same time, Tuthill was authoring an ordinance change to spacing requirements. Previously, a liquor store couldn’t open within 300 feet of a school’s front door. Her change made it so a liquor store couldn’t open within 300 feet of a school’s lot line, disqualifying Kerkinni from getting a liquor license.

Tuthill says she was working on the ordinance change before she knew of Kerkinni’s plans. Kerkinni, at the time, said he felt as though he was targeted.

Tuthill was also criticized for being rude to a prospective business in her voicemail.

“Well it certainly wasn’t my intention, but I have to tell you that it does get my hackles up a little bit when someone makes an insinuation that the area needs revitalization and it doesn’t.

“I mean, this is the reason rents are so high in the community is that it already is revitalized and people want to be here,” Tuthill said. “After 40 years of hearing people refer to your community as ‘needs revitalization, is blighted,’ I mean, you get a little sensitive when it’s your community and you’ve lived there and worked really hard to make it the kind of place where people will come and open up their businesses and live there and stay until they’re 110 years old.”

And why did she get so perturbed by the reference to 25th and Hennepin as Uptown? After all, it’s only about five blocks from Hennepin and Lake.

Tuthill has a deep connection with that intersection. She and her husband owned Tuthill Balloon Emporium at 25th and Hennepin for 30 years. She was also one of the founding members of what was then the South Hennepin Business Association.

“Well, when you owned a businesses on 25th and Hennepin for 30 years and people would say ‘I’m at Hennepin and Lake, where are you? I thought you were in Uptown.’

“When you were one of the founders of the business association on South Hennepin, you have a tendency to be very protective of it, because you put that organization together,” she said.

Finally, I asked Tuthill why she didn’t do more to help the aspiring brewers. While breweries are opening up all over the city, none have made a home in Southwest Minneapolis.

“We have CPED (Community Planning and Economic Development) that does economic development in the city, and certainly they could work with them,” Tuthill said.

Schmitt said the brewers, if they couldn’t get the ordinance changed to sell growlers, would likely have to open somewhere else.

Tuthill said she doesn’t want to be described as anti-business.

“The thing I want to be clear on is I’m not anti-business,” she said. “But we do have ordinances in the city for a reason and I think that’s part of what we have to look at.”

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21 thoughts on “Tuthill responds to criticism of her voicemail to prospective brewery

  1. Ed Kohler says:

    Revitalized – in Uptown – seems to mean “national chains” rather than locally owned businesses created by our own entrepreneurs.

  2. Joe Steck says:

    How long has she been in office? She sounds like someone who has been in too long and thinks they are the position and the world revoles around them. If she is new to the position, well, she should consider not running again because her attitude stinks. She was rude, rybaks son charlie hopefully never works for the government because he was beyond rude.

  3. Alan Am says:

    Perhaps I’m being petty, but what really sticks out in that voice mail is when she refers to the caller as “honey.” It’s a contemptuous put-down meant to put the caller in his/her place, and to raise up Tuthill’s. If she referred to somebody as ‘honey’ during a council meeting she’d be called out of order. It’s the language of a bully who enjoys putting people in their place, and doesn’t feel she has reason to fear the consequences. What a wretched public servant.

  4. Joe says:

    It is funny how she claims not to be anti-business, when she is routinely anti-business. It is time to get someone on the council that is not opposed to jobs and business.

  5. Char1776 says:

    The only purpose of government is to protect our individual rights through the military, police and the courts and that’s it. They should be leaving us alone to live our lives as we see fit and only step in if someone’s rights are being abused through the use of force or fraud. People in this country has completely forgotten what we are all about.

    • Steven Prince says:

      Char,
      Cities would be very unhappy places if we did not have zoning or some other type of land regulation. Would someone build a nice home if they knew tomorrow their next door neighbor could become a 30 story apartment building, or a slaughterhouse? Zoning is what encourages investment, not prevents it. Changing those rules (laws) creates winners and losers – the losers are usually those who would not have made their investment under the new rules.

      • Spencer says:

        Steven Prince,

        And yet, investment in cities has never been as substantial in the zoning era as it was before zoning existed. You think people would be building slaughterhouses in residential neighborhoods were it not for zoning? Why, because without zoning an industrial use would suddenly be able to afford prime land values and choose to locate in an area without the necessary heavy transportation infrastructure it needs? Most of Uptown was built before zoning. How many slaughterhouses located there?

  6. Ray says:

    I’ve known Meg & her family since her son Matt worked for me well over 20 years ago. I also live in the 10th Ward & find her a dramatic improvement over her predecessor, who IMHO, was a bombastic self-promoter & totally ineffective at accomplishing what he promised voters during the campaign. Over our years of association, Meg has referred to me as “Honey” more times than I can count. I never found her style “contemptuous.” However I do find the passive/aggressive nature of many Minnesotans worthy of contempt. But that is one flaw which I would never accuse her of possessing. Her frankness is refreshing, leaving little to misinterpretation.
    As for the input of R.T. Rybak’s son, who cares what he thinks? Should we ask Bristol Palin what she thinks too? Maybe we can get Amy Carter to weigh-in. No pun intended. Americans threw off the yoke of dynastic rule over 200 years ago, regressing from time to time with disastrous effect, e.g. Bush 41 & 43.
    As a council member, Meg is the best I’ve ever had. Her staff is very pleasant & helpful. So I was devastated when I learned that because of redistricting we will lose her. As for her unwillingness to break rules for prospective businesses, we elected her to represent us first & foremost & to look out for our neighborhood interests, not the interests of people who wish to sell beer next to a elementary school all in the name of attracting more beer swilling tourists to urinate in our bushes. Thanks, but no thanks!.
    I don’t blame her for being offended by Kerkinni’s ridiculous comment about helping to revitalize the Uptown area. I too found it offensive. Increasing the uric acid content in our soil is an “improvement” I think we can live without. Our youngest & most vulnerable can get along just fine without foul mouthed drunks puking next to the teeter-totter or the merry go-round.
    Additionally, to use Schiff’s willingness to change the rules to plop a brewery near a church, effectively poking the church’s congregation in the eye, should hardly be taken as a rationalization for every CM to do the same. Minneapolis voters elect 13 different ward representatives because a diversity of opinion makes for better debate & hopefully better government policy. All of its wards are unique & some of them and their CM’s are more willing than others to allow variances to the code to attract business.
    Unfortunately, once elected some past council members silently picked up & moved away from the unpleasantness that surrounded their homes or perhaps to avoid the consequences of their own actions.
    Meg is as firmly planted in her convictions as a mighty oak & she not going anywhere. I suspect that the release of her voicemail message was an attempt on the part of Kerkinni to intimidate or bully CM Tuthill to do his bidding or face the ire of Ward 10 taxpayers. I think he’s over played his hand.

  7. Joe Thomas says:

    Tuthill sounds like a real stickler for the rules …, except when it comes to a charter requiring a public vote for stadium spending. Oh, and by the way honey, it’s hackles not heckles. It gets your hackles up. (hackles: The erectile hairs along the back of the neck of an animal, especially of a dog.)

  8. Laurie Savran says:

    I graduated from high school with Meg Tuthill’s husband and have known her for many years. Meg has never been what we call “Minnesota Nice,” but she is intense and passionate about her job. How refreshing that a we have a politician who does not stay under the radar or sit on the fence. I don’t always agree with Meg but I always respect her.

  9. breezy says:

    What is it with party supply stores and crotchety funless sales clerks? The times I’ve gone into the Party Store at the Quarry in North East Mpls all the clerks just slouch around like beaten down serfs then practically snarl at any customer request. I thought I was in the Soviet Party store. The two times I’ve met Meg Tuthill she was behind the counter in her balloon store on Hennepin Avenue. I had the same downer experience with her; a crotchety party pooper not wanting to help with the merchandise. She did get a little more animated grousing to me about the state of city government and public services. I might have suspected these were all cases of people exposed to too much balloon gas but Meg has been away from the gas nipple long enough, it should have worn off. I guess she’s just a sourpuss.

  10. Steven Prince says:

    So A business emails saying they are going to “revitalize” Hennepin and 25th, and would like Meg to change the law so it can open across the street from Jefferson School. Really? How is that good for the neighborhood? The location has zero off-street parking, but that is OK, the patrons can dump their empties in the school playground as they stumble to their parked car in the residential neighborhoods on either side of Hennepin.

    What is lost in all these threads is a council member who speaks honestly, and is not willing to change city ordinances every time a business wants to change the rules.

    Maybe we should just change the law to allow brew pubs everywhere – think how great it would be to have them on the parkways around the lakes, or along the river?

    • Borden says:

      The key issue is that CM Tuthill was willing to change the rules to *prohibit* one business from opening less than a half-block away. How is that honest or fair?

  11. […] (See previous Southwest Journal coverage of the voicemail here) […]

  12. Council Member Meg Tuthill says:

    I, like many residents, are tired by yet another business wanting to go around the law or change the law claiming their business will “revitalize” a very vital community.

    The reason there are very few vacancies in Uptown and the surrounding area is because it is a hot spot. That’s why businesses want to locate here.

    So we are on the same page, the ordinance in question is off sale liquor store spacing from schools. Before this ordinance was adopted spacing requirements for off sale liquor stores were measured from front door to front door. All this ordinance change did was standardize the spacing. As amended, the ordinance now states off sale liquor stores must be spaced 300 feet apart measured from lot line to lot line. As far as I know, there is no variance option for this ordinance.

    The 300 foot spacing requirement was supported by surrounding community members and the Minneapolis Public Schools.

    Lot line to lot line is how the City determines spacing for everything else, from building a garage to the development of multi-family dwellings. Case in point – there were two liquor stores in North Minneapolis that moved their front doors multiply times to get around the spacing requirement. They ended up in court. If the ordinance had been lot line to lot line at that time both businesses would have had saved a lot of time, effort and money.

    I would like to reiterate that I am a big fan of patios and outdoor dining. Like everyone else in the summer, if a restaurant has a patio I am more inclined to patronize that establishment.

    When I was running for office the number one issue I heard from residents was the noise, obnoxious behavior and livability issues in the neighborhoods surrounding Hennepin and Lake from late at night to early in the morning. I am responding to what my constituents are asking for.

    In May of 2010, I called together the bar/restaurant owners to discuss the issues that needed to be addressed. The bar/restaurant owners literally blew off the residents and the City.

    By bringing forward an ordinance it brought everyone back to the table.

    Then, I put together a task force with the bars/restaurants, licensing, Hospitality Industry, residents, CM Goodman, CM Schiff and the police. The task force came up with several suggestions that are working very well this summer. Several of the bars/ restaurants are paying for 2 extra squad cars in the neighborhood from Thursday through Saturday nights. This has helped make it safer for the residents who walk home from the restaurants and has also helped cut down on the obnoxious behavior of the folks passing through. The bars/restaurants have participated in a Hush Campaign as well as many other small changes that are having a huge impact on the residents living closest to the business district. My compliments and great appreciation goes to the restaurants/bars for their participation and help with the issues that have affected the surrounding communities.

    What I am opposed to is not having enough parking, taxi, bus service and bike parking to accommodate the numbers of folks that come into our community. The parking in the neighborhoods with the noise, vandalism, urinating, and vomiting is not acceptable in our community or any other. The City, the residents and the businesses have been diligently working on these issues. Some very positive progress is happening. A prime example is the taxi stands which have been very well received. This is a terrific win for all of the stakeholders.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to set the record straight – I appreciate it.
    Meg

  13. Tim Bonham says:

    Seems to me that it is pretty rude for a business to expect that the City Ordinance should be changed just for them!

    Our zoning ordinances were passed for good reason, and this one (limiting liquor sales near schools) is a very good one. There are already too many drunken louts in the neighborhood near this elementary school; we don’t need another alcohol seller there.

    Councilmember Tuthill was very correct in refusing to give special privileges to this proposed business.

    • Ed Kohler says:

      @Tim, Tuthill didn’t have a problem voting for the Vikings stadium. If she’s willing to create new laws and decidate hundreds of millions in public subsidies to a Deleware corporation owned by a guy in New Jersey, making it easier for a local entrepreneur to open a business seems reasonable to me.

  14. Janne says:

    I moved to Uptown in my mid-20s 17 years ago. (And yes, Uptown can be accurately described as including 25th and Hennepin). I never drive to uptown businesses and hope we do not continue to force parking upon businesses who have determined that they can do without.

    I also have not noticed a single drunken lout walking within visible or audible distance of Jefferson school during school hours. Now, I haven’t spent the entire last 17 years standing waiting to spy one, but I have walked past hundreds of times both during and outside of school hours. Unless it’s a late weekend night, I’ve been hard-pressed to find anyone who seemed to have been drinking, and even weekend nights it’s a teeny minority of pedestrians who meet the standard of “drunken lout.”

    I can say that while CM Tuthill consistently is outspoken and honest with her opinions, she has generally not represented the views or preferences of I or my neighbors and peers.

  15. A3tudentworldwide says:

    Hello. Congrats to SWJournal for identifying some principles of Pryes brewing who want to locate a brewery and/or brew pub west of Jefferson School, vicinity of 25th & Hennepin Av. So. Always helpful to know who you’re dealing with, the gamut of players. Would be even more helpful if reporters shared career experiences/backgrounds of top execs: CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.and critical advisers. Also could SWJournal reporter(s) publicly identify and contact landlord to inquire how supportive and familiar (s)he is with “brew pub” proposal, given past commentary on behalf of this specific site owner, at public hearings, about concerns with other uses in vicinity. Does landlord know ordinance requirements (and proponents), and simply wish to ignore or modify current local law of the land? As for proponents, how about compliance with typical other caveats for similar sites around town (no gambling, alcohol server education, etc.)? What are principals’ experiences with retail ops? One can make small brew at home, without ability to translate it into success at a different levels and locations. Many questions about operations, fractional interests, etc. Can inflammatory comments be dialed down, to have a public policy discussion, involving critical thinking, at neighborhood level (have principals bothered to contact or consult the neighborhood?). Weeks of engaging in character assassination seem unproductive. I can appreciate CM Tuthill’s reluctance NOT to waste the time of proposers, city staff, neighborhood association(s), and other CMs if proposal has little viability. We all have other things to do than thrash out scenarios involving unrealistic expectations. Not long ago, CM Tuthill was bluntly realistic that the siting of a retail operation along Henn Ave near 24th, that sold porn along with “clothing” and beverages, was allowable under current ordinance and freedom of speech/expression. The extent of this laissez-faire situation didn’t please all who heard what was allowable. Neither would I expect that everyone likes to hear that some ordinance provisions actually can inhibit and control something — that some things are prohibited.

    • Matt says:

      Isn’t it up to the landlord and the business how they should use the property? If these folks make a good garage brew but can’t translate it into commercial success, they’ll quit and the space will get leased out to someone else in the future. It’s not anyone’s job to vet out a business other than those who are risking their money or their property to open it up.

  16. […] has also taken criticism from some who believe she was dismissive of a proposal to open a microbrewery on Hennepin Avenue […]

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