Local restaurateurs petition against onerous alcohol rule

The 70/30 ordinance restricts the amount of revenue restaurants can make from alcohol sales
The 70/30 ordinance restricts the amount of revenue restaurants can make from alcohol sales

Molly Broder, the owner of Broders' Pasta Bar, Cucina, and Terzo Vino Bar, is spearheading an attempt to rid the city charter of its 70/30 rule, which mandates that certain neighborhood restaurants earn no more than 30 percent of their overall revenue from alcohol sales. Restaurants currently affected by the rule include Chatterbox Pub, Pizza Luce, Corner Table, Birchwood Cafe, and Matt's Bar, among 65 others.

"I [knew] something needed to be done when we opened and I realized we weren't going to be able to make our numbers and then looked into it a little bit more," Broder said. "All of these little neighborhood places are tied to the city charter."

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Broder, along with Tilia's Steven Brown, the Lynn on Bryant's Peter Ireland, and Turtle Bread's Harvey McLain, recruited a lawyer to draft a petition against the rule. According to David Brauer of the Southwest Journal, they'll need a whopping 10,790 signatures to get on the 2014 ballot and a 55 percent vote from the City Council for the changes to be made.

The main aim of the petition is to get alcohol licensing out of the hands of the charter and within the regular purview of the City Council, Broder said.

"[The goal is] to be regulated by city ordinances in the city of Minneapolis, which then means that the City Council can decide by majority vote what the license is going to be," she added.

The initial thinking behind the 70/30 rule was that it kept restaurants from turning into full-fledged bars and attracting bar crowds to predominantly residential neighborhoods. The problem is that the rule makes it difficult for the 70 Minneapolis restaurants it falls on to serve nice wines and craft beers alongside similarly priced foods.

"This is a remnant of the end of prohibition," said Harvey McLain of Turtle Bread Company. "[The rule] really comes back to a time when there was a belief that wine and beer was evil."

Restaurants that fall under the 70/30 rule are also prohibited from serving drinks to customers before they order food. Restaurants that fail to comply risk losing their liquor licenses.

Broder will be hosting a meeting with concerned restaurateurs and a member of the charter commission to discuss the petition at Terzo today at 11 a.m.

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