Could New Windom Toppers Close Due To City?

Neighbors succeed in stopping late-night dine-in hours; delivery will still be until 3 a.m.

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."


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James Sanna (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 05:56 PM
There's a piece of good news for the corner and the business owner that I couldn't find room for in the story— City council members at the meeting. said they'd be open to revisiting the hours question if no problems crop up.
James Sanna (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 06:33 PM
As I understand the rules on these things, he can't say anything for or against the hours proposal until the council meeting where he votes yea or nay. He was at the REE meeting on Monday, though, listening to the proceedings.
James Sanna (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Hmm....I'm not sure about that angle (would be a good question for him!) I know he had some kind of role in working with the nearby residents, Regulatory Services, and Derek Henze to try to work out a set of conditions to be attached to the license. I'm not sure about the specifics, though. His email is John.Quincy@minneapolismn.gov if you'd like to ask him, though.
Anna Schier July 11, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Do you agree with committee's decision? Do you feel a late-night restaurant might attract unruly clientele or do you think the decision was unfair to Henze and his business?
Annie S. July 11, 2012 at 01:11 PM
It's hard to say. There's not a lot open for a good mile in any direction that time of night (except Cub and Tailgate) so there's potential it could be very popular and that in and of itself could present a problem. I would much rather see the city to allow them to try being open late, and address problems, if any, as they arise. I get it - the area is also zoned residential. My advice - don't buy/rent in an area also zoned commercial if you want a quiet neighborhood.
Jimm July 13, 2012 at 03:41 PM
A great decision. Days after their grand opening giveaway, litter was strewn around the block. If people don't think a pizza joint will be a magnet for bar crawlers, they are in fantasy land. Reshape the character of the 'hood for a Toppers? Really?
Jon Crowe July 17, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Overbearing government agencies at their best. Anyone still wonder why it is so hard for small businesses to survive these days? This neighborhood is living in the past.


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