1:00 O Clock The Drunks Are Out…2:00 O Clock The Drunks Are Out

Tom Hanson, the owner of Zorbaz is playing tough with our Bemidji City Council. Zorbaz, a very successful Mexican Food and Bar wants to build its 11th Minnesota location in the South shore development next to the new Regional Event center. The 8000 square foot establishment would anchor the ground floor of a 5 story 24 to 30 unit condominium complex. He only had one request…that the city changes its current ordinance for closing time for liquor from 1am to 2pm.

I guess my initial thought was “I already thought we were open till 2 am?” Shows how often I stay out that late! In 2003 the State of Minnesota law changed given the cities an option to extend their closing times till 2am. If a city changes its ordinance, it is up to the individual on sale liquor establishments to change to 2am, or remain at 1am. If they opt for the 2am closing, an extra “fee” is added on by the state to supposedly cover some of the “expenses” such as later hours for law enforcement. Many “border” cities next to Wisconsin were loosing customers at 1am at the time. Also, both Minneapolis and St. Paul contended they needed the extra hour to compete against other major cities for tourist and convention business (remember during the Republican National Convention the debate was to allow St. Paul bars to stay open until 4am!!)

Online a person can find many arguments that were used in 2003 for the extension 1 hour. Then Senator Mark Ourada from Buffalo stated “I got news for you folks. If somebody’s going to abuse alcohol now , they’re going to figure out a way to do it by 1 a.m. And 2 a.m. isn’t going to make it that much more likely.” Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan (who was 4th precinct inspector in 2003) stated “there is the chance that a good portion of the crowd will tire-out before 2 a.m. and “water down” the 1 a.m. problem. I have no doubt that my “problem children will stay downtown longer.” The then 5th precinct inspector stated “Instead of everyone leaving the bar at 1am, they will trickle out over a 90 minute period of time starting at 1 a.m., creating lower intensity bar rush but a longer duration.

Mr. Hanson presented some talking points using similar logic. He stated he cannot make the “considerable investment required of a new location” and that without him the condo project “will not go forward”. Obviously with his locations on lake fronts, the extra hour during June/July and August means a lot of money for him. I can’t imagine it would be bad either those weekends that the Beavers are playing say…Minnesota, St. Cloud, North Dakota or Duluth in the dead of winter. He did state that “every community I’m involved in has the 2 a.m. closing time”. According to their website (www.zorbaz.com) some of their sites (such as Big Sandy Lake) are only open till 1 am, and some are open only till 2 a.m. certain nights and times of the year.

What’s your opinion?? My opinion tends to agree with Mr. Hanson who stated people with a 2 a.m. closing time tend to “flow out in less of a hurry and tend to leave in a more comfortable manner.” I also agree that if someone wants to get drunk they can and will get drunk no matter what time closing is. For us to be competitive with cities like Park Rapids, Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes that stay open till 2 am now, we should adopt this measure. Plus I am sure it will add to the success of booking conventions and meetings to the new Regional Event center. Its just the truth that beverage consumption (not necessarily over consumption) is a part of the social "convention experience".

I am not sure of the legalities, but maybe the city can counter with some offers of its own. 1) Make 2 am establishments have some sort of food service up to 2 am allowing patrons to eat before leaving. 2) Limit the 2am only to Friday’s and Saturday nights and certain holidays (Halloween/St. Patrick’s Day). 3) If the State can charge a “fee” for staying open late, can our money starved city also charge a reasonable “fee” for added costs of police services? Zorbaz comes as a 40 year old quality fun establishment which would be an absolutely GREAT ADDITION to the Southshore and to our city. It would mean added jobs and added tax revenue and be a spark plug for Lake Bemidji. I hope our city is willing to work positively to make this happen.
 

7 thoughts on “1:00 O Clock The Drunks Are Out…2:00 O Clock The Drunks Are Out

  1. I totally agree, Mike. What I am afraid of now is how the city council will react to this situation. They might feel that if they give in to this request, it will look to the public that the tail is wagging the dog for the sake of the all mighty dollar. I wish they had just changed this archaic ordinance a while back, when the rest of the modern world did it, on their own. Since it’s too late for that, just change it asap along with the rationale that all this new development and change is ushering in a new era and it is necessary, whether they permit Mr. Hanson or not, to change it anyway to keep in step with the rest of Minnesota. Within a few years, it will all be forgotten anyway.

  2. Sounds like the next city council work session this Monday Feb 22nd at 5:30 which addresses the 2am bar closing time will be filled with public officials crying “the sky is falling” because of the 1 extra hour. As usual anything that says “change” is going to be fought against by Bemidji. I’m guessing some that want to see the South shore development fail will rally against the 2am. Its amazing how Park Rapids/Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes can all handle the 2am bar closing, but we won’t be able to?

  3. What gets me is that all the naysayers have been wrong about this development project up till now. All their negative rationale has been proven wrong right down the line and will continue to be. Naysayer arguments include everything under the sun as well as stuff they just make up in their head. All that is left is the one thing that we have been saying all along but in 3 years I have only heard one person admit it and that is the one word you said above. “CHANGE”. Can you imagine if someone just up to the podium and said, I’m against it because I don’t like change. 2 things would happen. First thing is that I would respect that person for finally saying so. Second thing is that we can now dismiss that as no good reason and move ahead with the business at hand and move our city forward into the future. After all, that is the duty of the city council, is it not? I realize that many on the city council know that and those are the ones I thank for getting us this far. I hope they stay the course in this case and remember that they have been living up to their responsibility and should continue to do so by changing this outdated ordinance.

  4. The only question the city should ask is, does it increase crime rates? Does it increase sales taxes? I am sure many studies have been done in areas where it’s been contemplated.
    If it means new business coming to town and possibly spurring development on the Southshore as a city we better take it. Otherwise, I am afraid the whole deal will be covered in weeds an in foreclosure like the rest of the US. Land development is a tough business right now and if someone’s at the table they should be embraced. The city should do their best to make a deal work…

  5. Well, there it is… the city put them selfs in a bind by buying land and wanting to playing realtor… now they have somebody who wants to put up HIS OWN money to buy land and build his OWN place… and the city gets scared……. way to go guys. Bemidji did it’s job in putting the right people in place to make this happen, now the elected are worried about an hour later closing…..WTF? Zorbas would be a great fit in this town… pull your heads out of your backsides and do some developing!

  6. The land development business is tough. The city should have never taken that role. They should have purchased the BREC site, put the PUD and design review board in place, and left the land development out of it. Now they’re tied to debt and turn things down which is further putting their backs against the wall. Every day is costing them money in debt service.. Clock it ticking!
    2 a.m. does nothing in terms of crime. As far as the other bars, they don’t HAVE to do it so why does their opinion matter???

  7. The land development business is tough. The city should have never taken that role. They should have purchased the BREC site, put the PUD and design review board in place, and left the land development out of it. Now they’re tied to debt and turn things down which is further putting their backs against the wall. Every day is costing them money in debt service.. Clock it ticking!
    2 a.m. does nothing in terms of crime. As far as the other bars, they don’t HAVE to do it so why does their opinion matter???

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