When bars shut their doors for the night in Uptown, drunken bar patrons and their servers are likely to be found slipping through the doors of the Uptown Diner on Hennepin Avenue. The buzzing and often dizzying atmosphere that is Uptown Diner after bar close usually stays within the restaurant's dining room, brightly lit like a zoo exhibit for passersby.
But lately the only late-night eatery in the area has come under criticism from pissed off neighbors who are fed up with the noise at all hours of the night. The City Council received at least five letters of complaint about the excessive noise, which led the city to start looking into the establishment.
And what they found forced Uptown Diner to close down early on the weekends due to a lack of license required to stay open past 11 p.m. The licensing slipped past the diner and city officials back when the restaurant opened there seven years ago. Now the owners are fighting to get back what makes them a popular destination in town: Breakfast all night long.
Ward 10 City Councilmember Ralph Remington said Uptown Diner's missing license requirement was discovered last month after the city received up to six letters of complaint about excessive noise in the diner's parking lot and the surrounding area. While the establishment wasn't directly causing the problems, Remington says it obviously attracts customers that are likely to be disruptive.
"After bar hours, people tend to be loud and kind of jacked up," he says. "They need to soak their booze up before they go home. It's a confluence of events where the patrons don't realize how loud they are and (neighbors) are trying to sleep."
Once the city receives a number of complaints about a business, officials start looking into their past record of complaints and licenses to make sure they are up to date on city ordinances. Unfortunately when Uptown Diner moved to their new location at 26th and Hennepin, the owners failed to apply for a conditional use permit that would allow them to be open all night. If a business wants to be open past 11 p.m., they must have an additional permit and a public hearing, Remington says.
The city couldn't let the diner continue operating all night, but made a compromise until the problem is solved, Remington said. Beginning July 3, the city allowed the diner to stay open until 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
Uptown Diner General Manager Joe Sipprell said the reduction of weekend hours is devastating. The diner usually serves 700 to 900 hungry patrons between midnight and 6 a.m. Friday through Sunday and the cutback in hours required them to lay off 10 employees who covered those later shifts.
While Sipprell understands that his business attracts a potentially loud and more distruptive crowd to the area, he says they are willing to make changes to make patrons more respectful at all hours of the morning.
"By having a 24-hour diner, you're going to have traffic," he says. "But that defines who we are as a business. We are just a diner."
Sipprell says they always believed they were doing a good job and tried to work directly with neighborhood groups to ensure they were doing all they could to keep Hennepin Avenue peaceful. He insists the lack of proper permits was an accident that was missed by his business and city officials when they opened.
"Neighbors have a right to have a decently run business in their area and we want to be that business," he says.
Will reduced hours actually solve the problem? Not now, Sipprell says. The people who come to his location expecting a warm meal will have to be turned away and could end up spending time talking loudly in the parking lot or neighborhood because they are ticked off that their late-night eatery is no longer open to serve them.
It comes down to the most simple request: "We just want to serve potatoes and eggs," he says.
In order to return to their 24-hour status, the diner must go through a public hearing to flesh out neighborhood concerns and support. There's already a growing Facebook support group and the diner has a petition for supporters to sign when they visit.
Whether or love them or hate them, come to the public hearing later this month to have your voice heard:
Planning Commission meeting and public hearing
Monday, July 27
City Council Chambers in City Hall
350 South 5th Street, Minneapolis