The Duluth Alcohol Review Board at its meeting Monday night directed the city attorney and city staff to incorporate suggestions to a proposed revision of the city’s alcohol beverage ordinance and forward it to the city council for discussion later this month.
Among the suggestions is allowing outdoor consumption of alcoholic beverages purchased from restaurants in the downtown “red zone” on weekends.
Other proposed changes include allowing a new category of taverns to operate downtown, allowing growler shops to sell beer samples, allowing wine, beer and malt beverage tastings in grocery stores, and allowing overflow restaurant patrons to take their cocktails, beer and wine outside in designated areas while they wait for tables.
Also, more package stores selling liquor would be allowed to open in the city.
Another change would prohibit karaoke bars in the city from having private booths and locked rooms.
Changes proposed by city staff and drafted by the city attorney were aired at the ARB’s July 10 meeting with additional input provided by City Manager Tim Shearer, City Clerk Teresa Lynn, Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee, Downtown Development Authority members, Mayor Nancy Harris, City Council members, Duluth Police Det. Rick Thompson, and others in attendance.
The city staff’s version kept the current red zone operation intact. Patrons of restaurants in the red zone are allowed to leave with alcoholic beverages purchased there for consumption in the two-block area, which includes the Town Green, during a dozen or so special city-sponsored, alcohol-sanctioned events a year.
Duluth Downtown Development Authority member Maxine Garner suggested the ARB consider expanding the red zone days to weekends, which she said had been the consensus during recent DDA discussions. Garner said this would be a better alternative than a previous proposal to expand the red zone operation to 365 days a year.
Lynn suggested changing the name of the red zone to “hospitality zone.” Councilman Billy Jones recommended the city consider requiring special cups for alcoholic beverages sold by restaurants for consumption in the zone.
Major changes in the ordinance were reviewed by City Attorney Stephen Pereira. The revisions also include “a lot of little things,” according to ARB Chairman Slade Lail. These remove inconsistencies and clarify wording to make the ordinance easier for the city to enforce and the public to understand.
Included is a change recently approved by the city council removing the requirement that restaurants selling alcoholic beverages must have a minimum of 50 seats. This applied citywide.
Do you think Duluth needs expanded 'red zone' days, taverns, and more package stores? Tell us in the comments.
Taverns would be limited to operating in the CBD (Central Business District) and Core Preservation District-Commercial (CPD-C) downtown, according to Pereira. After considerable discussion, it was decided to remove wording that would have required taverns to sell food amounting to 20 percent of total annual gross sales. Duluth restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages are required to have 50 percent in food sales.
DDA member Bill Weaver, a partner in Pure Taqueria, said that the cost of installing and operating a kitchen would discourage taverns from locating in Duluth. He suggested that a ratio be adopted to keep taverns from outnumbering restaurants. There are currently four restaurants downtown, and only three existing spaces suitable for taverns. Taverns would likely be designated as no-smoking establishments as are restaurants in the city.
Taverns would provide places to have a cocktail, a beer or a glass of wine and socialize before or after going to dinner, a movie or the Red Clay Theatre for a concert, Shearer said. “We’re trying to get people to [frequent] multiple destinations downtown.”
Pereira said that the restaurant patron overflow proposal would apply citywide. Restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic beverages could apply for an annual permit to allow customers waiting for tables to take their alcoholic beverages to an open area directly outside and adjacent to the restaurant. The permit fee would be $150 to cover administrative expenses.
Growler shops would continue to be allowed only in the CBD and CPD-C downtown, Pereira said. The Best of Brews, operated by DDA member Greg Lindquist, is the only growler shop in Duluth at present. City staff had proposed that BOB be allowed to give away free beer samples, but Lindquist said he needs to charge for samples and pay excise taxes. He suggested a sample size of 3 to 4 ounces. The number of samples he could serve to a customer in a 24-hour period would also be limited.
Under another proposed change, grocery stores licensed to sell alcoholic beverages would be allowed to serve tastings of wine, beer and malt beverages upon customer request or in conjunction with educational programs. The tasting area would be limited to a counter constituting no more than 10 percent of the entire premises, Pereira said. The annual fee for a tasting license would be $200.
Based on population, the number of package stores allowed to sell distilled spirits is currently limited to four or five within the Duluth city limits. City staff recommended eliminating this restriction from the ordinance, Pereira said, and allowing “as many as the market would bear.”
The cap on liquor stores in the city limits potential investments, McGahee said. “It’s an economic development issue,” he said. “There have been no new package store investments in the city in 20 years.”
Det. Thompson spoke in favor of prohibiting private booths and rooms in karaoke bars to discourage illicit activities and to monitor drinking. There are presently three karaoke bars in the city, he said.
Possible changes to the alcohol beverage ordinance have been under discussion in Duluth for several months. The city council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the latest proposed revisions to the ordinance at its July 23 work session.