With the rap of a gavel Monday afternoon, the six members of the Minneapolis City Council's Regulatory, Energy, and the Environment Committee either sealed the fate of a new business on the corner of 54th and Nicollet, or found a solomonic solution to a dispute that could have damaged a neighborhood.
To some fanfare, the new Toppers Pizza store moved into its digs across from Mayflower Community Church and Diamond Lake Hardware last month. But owner Derek Henze immediately came up against a problem: like other pizza restaurants, he says he needs to stay open late in order to survive. Between delivery and dine-in customers, catering to the late-night crowd provides around one-third of his income, he told Patch last week, letting him actually meet payroll, rent, and other costs. To stay open until 3:00 a.m., Henze sought a license from the city.
To Henze's immediate neighbors in Windom and Tangletown, however, a late-night joint of any sort sends shivers down their spines.
"We and our neighbors do not object to extended hours for delivery for Toppers if the delivery drivers are using the parking lot. We believe the business owner can control the behavior of their employees," David Evans wrote in an email to Patch last week. "(However) we do not believe the business owner can control the behavior of people who arrive at their door at 2:45 in the morning."
With these competing visions of the future, Evans, fellow Windom resident David Thul, and Henze stood before the City Council committee on Monday.
Thul and Evans reiterated their concerns, Evans adding that he doesn't think Henze "will have control over how much alcohol their customers consume before arriving in our neighborhood," saying that late-night businesses attract customers from across the city.
In his own testimony to the committee, Henze tried to dispel the idea that his late-night customers would be bar crawlers.
"I've been in this business for the last five years, opening up 20 restaurants," he said. "Residents of the neighborhood will be the late-night customers. The people who I have (coming to his other restaurants) are the second- and third-shift workers."
As the license Henze needed is renewed yearly, Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association President Matt Perry told the committee, the neighborhood has many ways to fix the situation should Henze's customers get out of hand.
In the end, though, neither Henze, nor Perry, nor a set of conditions Henze agreed to could sway the committee, which voted unanimously to grant the Toppers restaurant the extra hours for delivery only. Barring some last-minute reversal at next week's City Council meeting, Toppers will be able to deliver until 3:00 a.m. next Friday or Saturday, but it will have to stop taking dine-in orders at 11:00 p.m.
Henze said the limitations might cause customer confusion and sink his business, but time will tell.
"If I can stay open until 3:00 a.m., I've got a 100 percent chance of succeeding," he told Patch after the committee adjourned. "Now, I'm flipping a coin."