Mar 22, 2024 - Politics

Beer could return to Lake Nokomis under proposed bill

sign above row of taps that says where's the beer and explains a local ordinacne issue

The beer drought came as a surprise to proprietors, Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

State lawmakers are weighing whether to let the taps flow more freely at Minneapolis parks.

Why it matters: Enforcement of an archaic liquor law served The Painted Turtle at Lake Nokomis a surprise buzzkill for summer fun β€” and profits β€” after it took over the popular beachside spot last year.

  • Without a change, The Painted Turtle won't be able to regularly serve beer and wine at its stand for a second summer season.

Behind the scenes: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill that would give the city special permission to issue liquor licenses to park concessions or contracted caterers that fail to meet "indoor" seating requirements.

What they're saying: Sen. Scott Dibble, a sponsor of the bill, calls the current law requiring 25 covered seats surrounded by three walls "simply impractical."

  • "For a long time, zero liquor anywhere within the boundaries of a park was accepted as what was desirable," the Minneapolis Democrat said during a committee hearing this week. "That hasn't been the case for a long, long, time."

The big picture: While the bill would give immediate relief to The Painted Turtle, boosters say it could also lead to more summer pop-ups featuring beer and wine in city parks.

  • Park board manager of permits and events Shane Stenzel told lawmakers that the department is interested in piloting a traveling outdoor beer garden modeled after programs in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

Between the lines: Beer and wine is a big moneymaker for restaurants. But blocked alcohol sales don't just hurt the vendor's bottom line β€” the park board also gets a slice of all concession sales.

  • "It's in everyone's best interest for it to get pushed through," The Painted Turtle co-owner Sam Carter told Axios.

Flashback: Both Carter, who also owns Unleashed Hops and Hounds, and the park board were surprised when The Painted Turtle's liquor license request was rejected, as longtime Nokomis vendor Sandcastle had served beer and wine for years.

  • Minnesota Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement has said that Sandcastle was the subject of a complaint, per WCCO, but didn't follow through on bringing the building up to code before calling it quits.
a rendering of the updated lake nokomis foods tand
Construction will add a covered patio and seating. Courtesy of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board

State of play: The park board allocated $250,000 to build out the Nokomis site to add walls and create indoor seating, which would meet the current requirement.

  • The goal was to get it done by this season. But a gas line issue means construction won't be done until the fall, a spokesperson tells Axios.

What we're hearing: Carter, who calls the current law "entirely pointless," is hopeful the bill will pass so the stand can serve alcohol when it opens in May.

  • If it doesn't, The Painted Turtle plans to use another quirk in state law that would allow serving beer and wine for up to 12 days, as long as the business splits the proceeds with a local charity.

What we're watching: The proposal was set aside for possible inclusion in broader spending and policy bills in the House and Senate.

  • Its fate will be decided by late May, when the Legislature adjourns for the year.

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