May 1, 2024 - Things to Do

Anoka's drinks to-go are back this summer

a hand holding a cup of wine

Wine al fresco is the norm in Anoka. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Break out the plastic cups: Anoka's boozy outdoor social district is back.

Why it matters: The expanded pilot program returns for a second year on Wednesday and is the first state-sanctioned effort to bring Bourbon Street's sip-and-stroll vibe to Minnesota.

What's new: Residents and visitors to the north metro suburb will be able to drink alcoholic beverages outdoors in a designated section of the city's downtown and riverfront park district for five months this year, instead of the one allowed in 2023.

What they're saying: Boosters say the concept is attracting more patrons for the city's businesses.

  • "I think it's just going to be one big summer party, but in a very mature adult way, where we can all grab drinks from our favorite spots and hang out together," Ambi Wine Bar & Desserts co-owner Jess Pratt said.

How it works: Alcoholic beverages purchased at 10 participating restaurants and bars can be brought outside and enjoyed anywhere within the designated area, which includes part of Main Street and Riverfront Memorial Park.

map showing where people can drink outdoors in anoka
Image: City of Anoka

The catch: No BYOB allowed. All alcoholic drinks must be served and consumed via plastic cups featuring the pilot's logo.

  • You also can't bring drinks from one participating restaurant or bar into another, though you can bring them into some stores.

What to expect: Pratt said her bar saw a small bump in activity during last fall's month-long trial run.

  • She hopes that extending the initiative for the entire summer — and adding more public events, seating, and participating restaurants — will draw even bigger crowds.

If you go: The rules allow wandering, cup in hand, from 10am to 10pm daily through Oct. 6.

  • Participating businesses should have stickers on their windows.
  • In addition to the city-backed events, Pratt said Ambi Wine Bar and other restaurants plan to offer live music on their patios this year.

What we're watching: Anoka, which needed the Legislature's sign-off to launch the trial, will report back to the state next year on how it went.

  • Lawmakers could then consider whether to allow other cities to try it out.

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