Council Supports Ordinance Requiring Restaurants to Sell as Much Food as Booze

The ordinance has received more attention lately because Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill is struggling to hit the mark.

A St. Louis Park ordinance requiring restaurants to sell at least as much food as liquor has certainly in light of struggles with the provision, but don’t look for the ordinance to change anytime soon.

All seven members of the St. Louis Park City Council, including Mayor Jeff Jacobs, have voiced some degree of support for the provision. When Toby Keith’s came up for a liquor license renewal late last month, council was unanimous in using the ordinance to grant a probationary license, giving the restaurant six months to get its numbers up from 31 percent food — versus 67 percent liquor — to at least 50 percent food.

“I think we (SLP) set the tone that this is not a community of bars for drinking and getting drunk,” Ward 4 councilwoman Julia Ross said in an e-mail, “but a community focused on the overall dining and entertainment experience for fun.”

Other council members generally echoed Ross’ sentiment. Paul Omodt, an at-large councilman, said he would be open to looking at modifying the ordinance or enacting a new one if needed, but added he supported the idea of fixing “problem bars.”

Kent Kramer, general manager of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, said he is confident the establishment will meet the 50 percent food mark by adding new happy hour entrees to the menu, as well as distributing lunch cards in the area. However, he said he doesn’t agree with the ordinance.

“I don’t think that a city should be able to tell a private business what they need to do,” he said. "(But) we've got to do it, and we understand that, and we’re going to do everything we can to do it.”

Kramer’s concern echoed some of the comments posted by readers to Facebook after St. Louis Park Patch’s initial story on the issue. One commenter said he feels the ordinance “impedes (business) much more then it helps.”

However, council members said they feel the ordinance is fair, adding that they haven’t heard any outcry from the local business community.

“It really is here to help,” Ward 2 councilwoman Anne Mavity said of the 50-50 requirement. “We want a lively entertainment district but not a bar scene. I think it’s accomplished that.”

While Kramer is opposed to the ordinance, not all local restaurant owners are. Gary Rackner, who has owned for 23 years, said he understands why a city would want to keep a close eye on alcohol consumption. He added that he appreciates the fact that all St. Louis Park restaurants that sell liquor are judged exactly the same way.

“It’s a fair playing field,” Rackner said. “It’s even throughout.”

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill has until Sept. 15 to get its numbers to 50-50. If the establishment misses the mark, the city could impose a fine of up to $2,000, suspend the bar and grill's liquor license for up to 60 days, or possibly even revoke the license.


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