The Patios of Minneapolis: Keepers of the flame
There is no construction trend in Minneapolis to rival the condo craze. Any fool can see that there is a vast conspiracy to re-people the City of Lakes. Giant cranes loom at every corner and condo-related eviction sagas are as common as complaints about the weather.
There is, however, another construction trend that bears comment: the dramatic proliferation of patios at Minneapolis's restaurants and bars. Since February 3, some 43 establishments have applied to the city for permits to either build new patios or expand existing ones. Over the same period last year, the city received a paltry 13 such applications.
The explanation for this lies not in some collective love of fresh air but in the city's recently enacted smoking ban. For months now, Minneapolis bar owners have complained mightily about the damage the ban has done to their businesses. The rush to build patios seems clear evidence that they feel the need to lure back lost customers. Say what you will about the public health and commercial implications of the smoking ban: It has certainly made the street life of our often-moribund city more lively. And the city's junior nicotine trainees can scrounge more smokeable butts from the pavement than ever before.