Long-forgotten ordinance may close bars on Sundays in North St. Paul

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Neumann's
The main drag in North St. Paul is home to most of the town's bars, including the Polar Lounge, the American Legion, and Neumann's, which opened its doors in 1887 and is the longest continually running bar in Minnesota.

It may sound sleepy, but right now, the bar community is in an uproar. The city is attempting to bring them into compliance with liquor laws that have been on the books for years, but never enforced. Those laws would force them to close on Sundays.

"I need to be open every day of the week. I have a lot of bills to pay," says Mike Brown, the owner of Neumann's. "It could very well shut us down."

About a year ago, North St. Paul police chief Tom Lauth was examining an application from one of the bars to extend its hours on Sunday. After reading the city's Sunday license ordinance, he realized that not only was that bar out of compliance, nearly every other bar in town was too. According to the ordinance, the bars have to have restaurant seating for 100 people in a room separate from the bar itself, and a full staff of servers and cooks.

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"A lot of our bars are exclusively on-sale liquor stores. They are not restaurants and make no attempt to be," says Lauth. "They would not be eligible for Sunday sales."

While Lauth says he has no idea why the bars in town have been allowed to hold Sunday sale licenses for so many years, he's putting a stop to it.

"Otherwise we're condoning bad practices and breaking the law," he says.

That has bar owners from up and down the drag in a tizzy. Jerry Bayers, the owner of the Polar Lounge, says he's been open every Sunday for nearly 32 years and estimates that taking a day of rest will cost him about 17 percent of his profits.

"I'm hoping that they realize how much sales tax dollars they're losing," he says. "I don't know what benefit it is to close the bars."

On Tuesday, the North St. Paul city council will discuss reworking the language of the ordinance to make it a little more permissive -- cutting the number of seating from 100 to 30 for example -- but Lauth says that requiring the bars serve food comes from Minnesota state law.

"Those are the laws we're stuck with and have to enforce," he says. "This isn't personal."

The bar owners have been meeting with the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association to strategize ways to stay open on Sundays, and on Tuesday, a rally of bikers -- the regular crowd at Neumann's -- will be at City Hall to show their outrage.

If they lose the argument next week, most of the bars will have to give up their Sunday licenses by July.

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3 comments
Ticked off
Ticked off

I think of it as the guy has a grudge against outlaws and people having fun in general! Wants to come in and be sheriff in a town he doesn't even live in...  There should be an ordinance for that!!!!!

jacc
jacc

Tom Lauth says "Otherwise we're condoning bad practices and breaking the law," Sadly this kind of lame Judge Dredd comic book policing mentality is becoming the norm. I'll bet he'd pull over red cars driving on Lake Street. It looks like the narrow minded Mr.Lauth has a great future in Minnesota Law Enforcement once North Saint Paul tosses him out.  http://www.idiotlaws.com/dumb_...

Sarah
Sarah

If this "law" has been on the books for so long (how long?) and has not been enforced then why do so when it's not causing any problems?  Clearly if there were issues with violence or complaints from the neighborhood about it then it would make sense to suddenly enforce it and make the small business owners deal with it.  It does seem like a personal issue when business owners get their legs cut off just because Tom Lauth did some homework- if anything the city should repay the tax revenue generated all these years to the business owners for the upgrades since they weren't following their own laws. I hope the city works with them on this!

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