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.