Current and potential restaurant owners along the Green Line in St. Paul may see changes in the city’s liquor ordinance if a proposed Ward 4 Green Line Commercial Development District comes to fruition.
Ward 4 City Councilmember Russ Stark’s office is exploring the establishment of a new commercial district that would remove restaurants from the ward’s liquor patrol limit and allow more licenses to be sold in the district.
Liquor licenses are sold to both off-sale establishments and restaurants that have a full liquor menu, and each ward has a specific number of liquor licenses. The citywide cap on liquor licenses is currently 215. Ward 4, which has a cap of 16, has no available liquor licenses. The only way to obtain one is if an establishment with a liquor license goes out of business. This is a deterrent for restaurateurs who may be eyeing the light-rail corridor to establish a new business, according to Dan Niziolek, deputy director of the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI). St. Paul’s City Charter and the Legislative Code do not limit the number of “wine-and-beer-only” licenses that can be issued to restaurants.
Niziolek and Stark’s legislative aid, Samantha Henningson, gave a presentation on the commercial development district at the Sept. 1 District 12 Land Use Committee meeting. Stark’s office visited district councils through September to get feedback on the proposal.
“We would like to get something to the council sometime in October,” Henningson said.
If established, the district would stretch from Lexington Parkway to the Minneapolis border and include Raymond Avenue and the area to the east of Raymond between I-94 and Pierce Butler Route in south St. Anthony Park (see map for the entire proposed district). The section stretching from Lexington to Snelling Avenue is part of Ward 1.
The new district may also remove restaurants with full liquor licenses from the “60 percent law,” which was established in the 1990s and requires restaurants that serve alcohol to have 60 percent of sales attributed to food sales. Two years ago, the Minnesota Statute changed to eliminate the 60 percent requirement from the definition of restaurant. Minneapolis changed its statute shortly after that.
It’s hard for many food establishments to make most of its sales in food, Niziolek said, as the rise in more expensive craft beers and liquor has made drinks more expensive than food.