Sometimes it helps to carry a big stick.
It was just a little more than a year ago that Minneapolis City Council Member Meg Tuthill decided the noise from the outdoor dining and drinking patios in Uptown had gotten out of hand.
Her proposed ordinance to cut back the number of outdoor seats and the hours of operation got the attention of the bar and restaurant business community.
The Uptown area currently has 1,300 outdoor seats, half the number of the area’s indoor seats, so business owners did not want to lose the outdoor option.
“The ordinance brought everybody together” to address the issue, said Tuthill.
Members of the business community and neighborhood residents decided it was better to work with Tuthill and city staff than to wait for them to come up independently with solutions to noise problem.
Thus was born the Outdoor Area Ordinance Task Force.
The group of 25 worked with city staff and Council Members Lisa Goodman, Gary Schiff and Tuthill to come up with a plan for voluntary noise mitigation and “other late-night issues.”
“People were concerned about the potential for confrontation,” said Dan McElroy, executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association, who said his group wants to be good partners with their neighbors. “This moved the plan from confrontation to collaboration,” he said.
Part of the task force plan has already been accomplished.
Taxi stands were added to Uptown to send the loud, and perhaps over-served, customers quickly on their way. And off-street parking has been expanded so those folks are not wandering into residential areas in search of their cars after bar closing.
The task force also worked with city business licensing staff to make two changes to the liquor license application process to include a security plan and a noise management plan.
Members of the business community also have agreed to increase management staff for outdoor areas and to reduce the use of outdoor amplified sound.
The plan uses humor to remind patrons they are in a residential neighborhood.
Coasters with the word “Hush” on them will be under those outdoor drinks, along with slogans like “We don’t wake you up at 5 a.m. Don’t wake us up at 2 a.m.”
“If this doesn’t work, we’ll have to look at other solutions,” said Tuthill, “but I’m going to count on this working.”
She says it is a bit early in the outdoor drinking and dining season to claim success. “We’ll have to wait a bit, but I’m confident this is a positive for our community.”
After the task force report was accepted by members of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee, Tuthill’s more restrictive ordinance was returned to her.
Two Cities blog, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul City Halls, is made possible in part by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation.