Council eases parking requirements

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66

This summer more St. Paul restaurants will be able to seek wine, beer and liquor licenses without having to add off-street parking. On a 5-1 May 23 vote the St. Paul City Council eased its parking requirements for restaurants and bars.

Other business owners, community groups and City Council members continue to debate the ordinance change’s impact. Ward Two Council Member Dave Thune, who cast the lone vote against, said the changes are “a solution in search of a problem.” He said restaurants wanting to add alcohol could apply for parking variances if there is a lack of onstreet parking available.

But Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark, who sponsored the ordinance, said it provides a compromise. He hears from restaurant owners wanting to add wine and beer, who cannot meet the current parking requirements. Stark said the approach taken provides flexibility for businesses while also protecting neighborhoods from noise and behavior issues.

The restaurant and bar parking changes were originally proposed in 2010 as part of a citywide package of off-street parking changes, but were laid over for more study at the council’s request. In June 2011 the Planning Commission asked that the changes be considered again.

Most community groups support the changes, with Union Park District Council, Highland District Council’s Community Development Committee, Hamline Midway Coalition, Grand Avenue Business Association, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Midway Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit community development group Sparc supporting the changes. Summit Hill Association (SHA), a few restaurant and bar owners and several Grand Avenue area residents oppose the changes.

The city has a per-ward cap on the number of on-sale liquor licenses, so those could only be added where licenses are available. It’s expected that most requests will be to add wine and beer to menus.

Currently restaurants require one off-street parking space for every 100 to 125 square feet of total floor area. Additional parking is required for beer, wine and liquor licenses, based on floor space. If a business has an entertainment license, that ratchets up the parking needs.

Under the changes, an establishment with wine, beer or liquor that closes by midnight is a restaurant. Restaurants will need one off-street parking space for every 400 square feet of gross floor area in their establishment. That is the same standard for restaurants that don’t sell alcohol, and for the city’s office and retail uses.

A bar is defined as an establishment that serves alcohol past midnight. Bars will need one offstreet parking space for every 150 square feet of floor area.

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