Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Monitor In A Minute Sept. 2018

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin


Pawn America can return
Pawn American can return to its former location, the St. Paul City Council decided Aug. 1. That’s despite objections from several neighbors who think the business is a blighting influence on University Ave.

Pawn America had operated at 1636 University Ave. since a conditional use permit was approved in 1997. The business closed less than a year ago. Pawn America had contacted city officials in Sept. 2017 about canceling their pawn shop license. Because the pawn shop use was discontinued less than one year ago, a new conditional use permit doesn’t have to be sought, according to city staff.

Rixmann Companies, which owns Pawn America, told city officials at a July licensing hearing that the store was closed during bankruptcy and reorganization of Pawn America. The store will have 15-18 workers when it reopens.

Although city officials got several letters and emails objecting to the pawn shop, no one appeared at a July legislative hearing to speak to the license request. Union Park District Council took no position.

License approval is with two conditions. One is that temporary window signs placed between the height of four to seven above grade shall not cover more than 30 percent of this window space area, and cannot block views into the clerk or cashier station. Also, Pawn America must comply with all federal, state and local laws.

Big Top Liquors can move
Another change is coming to the evolving Midway Center property. The St. Paul City Council Aug. 1 approved a distance variance for the off-sale liquor store distance requirements for the Applebaum Company, doing business as Big top Liquors. The approval allows the longtime Midway Center business to move its liquor store from a spot near Spruce Tree Dr. and N. Snelling Ave. to the former Midway Perkins building at 1544 University Ave.

The council also waived the 45-day waiting period for the liquor license change. The vote also approved the move of Big Top’s tobacco sales license.

Earlier this year the City Council amended its longtime separation requirements for off-sale liquor stores. The city requires a one-half mile space between stores. Big Top and other area stores are grandfathered in, but a needed move for Big Top put it out of compliance. Its current building is being torn down to make way for an interim parking lot and ultimately redevelopment that will be north of the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium.

The move puts the new store with 300 feet of a protected use, so that distance requirement also had to be amended. Schools, places of worship, child care centers and residentially zoned properties are among protected uses in St. Paul. City staff agreed to waive that condition after no objections were raised by immediate neighbors.

Union Park District Council supported the Big Top requests. Business owners were able to obtain seven of nine possible signatures from nearby residential properties for seventy-eight percent support.

Town House sold
August 22 was Holly Monnett Day in St. Paul. The longtime owner of the Town House bar and restaurant was honored at the St. Paul City Council meeting Aug. 15. Monnett recently sold the business. A large group attended the meeting to wish Monnett well.

Town House, 1415 University Ave., originally opened as the fine dining restaurant Tip Top Tap in 1941, became the Town House in 1949, and was rebranded in 1969 by then-owner Emmett Jewell as the city’s first gay bar. It evolved into an LGBTQ-friendly establishment, hosting a wide variety of events and clientele.

The City Council resolution stated that “WHEREAS, in the early 1970s, the drinking age being 18, a softball player with the well-known slow-pitch team, Avantis, named Hollis (Holly) Monnett began frequenting the Town House; and WHEREAS, on August 1, 1974, after being laid off from her day-job at a factory, Holly began working at the Town House; starting as a dishwasher and quickly being promoted to bar back and then bartender, requiring her to give up her softball career.”

Monnett became Town House manager and then seven years later bought the business in Aug. 1987. In 1990 Monnett and her friend Steve Anderson successfully rebranded the Town House as a gay country western bar named Town House Country, complete with line dancing and two-step lessons, DJs, and a piano lounge in the back room. That changed in 2000 when Town House merged staff and clientele with popular gay bar Over the Rainbow/Foxy’s on West 7th when the Over the Rainbow lease was not renewed. The Town House was reborn as a “dive” bar focused on entertainment including karaoke and drag shows.

The Town House was known for supporting a wide range of causes over the years through fundraisers and special events. It has stayed open 365 days a year. The business hung on through Green Line light rail construction thanks to savings Monett set aside for the construction period.

The council congratulated Monnett on her many years of business and wished her success in the future.

Monnett earlier this year sold the business to Wes Burdine, a Midway resident and co-owner of the Minnesota soccer website FiftyFive.One. Now named Black Hart, it is being rebranded with a soccer focus, sitting in the shadow of the new soccer stadium across the street. The Black Hart is “a neighborhood, LGBTQ+, and soccer bar in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul.” It is marketing itself as “the new spiritual home for soccer in the Twin Cities, a place to catch matches from around the world of soccer.”

Hooved animals go green
Hooved animals at the Como Zoo will enjoy energy savings. On Aug. 8 the St. Paul City council earmarked funds to make improvements to the 35-year-old heating system in the animals’ building, through a city energy conservation loan.

Photo right: ‘Of course, we want to go green!’ African Kudos at the Como Zoo would certainly approve the St. Paul City Council earmarking funds, through a city energy conservation loan, to make improvements to the 35-year-old heating system in the animals’ building. (Photo courtesy of the Como Zoo website)

The project is anticipated to result in energy efficiencies and utility cost savings. It had been identified as an eligible project for funding through the City’s Energy Conservation Loan Program. The Department of Parks and Recreation Department will use the funds to install two high-efficiency hot water boilers and associated pumps, piping, and valves to improve the heat distribution. This will save money and make the hooved animals more comfortable.

The city has had the program in place since 2007. It helps city departments retrofit city-owned facilities to reduce energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. Some loans are paid back to the program in five years; the loan for what is dubbed the ‘hoofstock’ building was granted a waiver.

The $425,000 renovation project is to be completed yet this year. The city’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee recommended approval of the project.

Landlords get a new task
St. Paul landlords are now required to give tenants voter registration information. With a 5-1 vote, on Aug. 8, the St. Paul City Council adopted an ordinance requiring that all landlords provide new tenants with voter registration information. The ordinance, which goes into effect 30 days after publication, is hailed by voting advocates as reaching renters and helping them to vote.

But is it potentially setting up situations where landlords tell tenants whom to vote for? About a dozen landlords have weighed in against the ordinance, saying it’s just another city mandate. Several have said they’d rather post voting information, instead of being told they must provide information on a tenant-by-tenant basis.

Council members Amy Brendmoen, Samantha Henningson, Rebecca Noecker, Dai Thao, and Chris Tolbert voted for the regulation. Jane Prince voted against, and Dan Bostrom was absent.

While she fully supports efforts to encourage renters to vote, Prince said she sees the requirement as potentially affecting the balance of power between landlords and tenants. She said there are other ways to reach renters to encourage them to vote.

“There are other things we should be asking landlords to do,” Prince said. She also questioned the enforceability of the ordinance.

Other council members said the measure is needed and will give tenants an incentive to register and vote. Anyone who moves needs to register or change their registration to vote at their current address. Noecker said the additional burden on landlords is “minimal.” Brendmoen called it a “small request.”

The regulations will affect about 15,000 landlords. Landlords will be notified via mail about the regulation.

Failure to comply with the regulation is a petty misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $300.

Minneapolis has had a similar regulation on its books since 2015. Since March 2016, all Minneapolis landlords must provide voter registration information to their tenants.

The St. Paul measure has the support of Ramsey County officials, who run elections in St. Paul. Joe Mansky, who manages county elections, told the City Council at an Aug. 1 public hearing that “certain parts of the community are chronically underrepresented’ in voting. Younger people and renters tend to not vote as often as older people and homeowners.

While Minnesotans can register to vote at the polls, Mansky said that preregistration would be helpful. Preregistration for the Nov. 6 general election ends Oct. 16.

Prince asked Mansky if there are other ways to reach voters. He described how the county uses posters in public places as well as social media to encourage voter registration.

Mansky said registration information had been sent with water bills, but that water is often paid by landlords and not tenants.
Others who spoke and wrote the council in support said the new requirement will add to voter participation. But landlords, more than a dozen of whom have contacted the City Council, said such a program should be voluntary.

“What’s going to be next?” asked 27-year landlord Richard Grogan. He and other landlords said that despite their best efforts to give tenants as much information as possible, some tenants don’t even read their leases.

Soccer stadium gets another ordinance change
The Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium reached its goal, but the downtown Treasure Island Center Tria Rink complex is on the sidelines. On Aug. 22 the St. Paul City Council approved a package of sign ordinance amendments, including some that allow entrance and pylon signs at the soccer stadium under construction at Snelling and University avenues.

Before the 5-0 vote, Ward Four Council Member Samantha Henningson removed ordinance language specific to Treasure Island-Tria. “There are concerns with the regulations proposed for downtown, and some questions about whether those have broader implications,” she said. “So, they need to wait.”

Henningson, who ended her tenure as interim council member Aug. 22, said the rest of the changes could move ahead in the future. Other council members agreed that they need more time to review the issue before voting on it.

The Midway and downtown facilities’ sign needs were wrapped into an ordinance with several other technical sign regulation changes. The curve thrown into the current debate is how St. Paul regulates advertising signs at sports facilities, ranging from Dunning Field to Xcel Energy Center. St. Paul allows advertising signs at specific sports facilities, in the form of features including outfield fences, dasher boards or golf hole sponsor signs.

The Aug. 22 vote allows the technical changes to go ahead, along with provisions that allow pylon signs and entrance signs at Allianz Field.

Most of the controversy centered on the downtown facility, which is in the former Macy’s/Dayton’s department store building. Part of the proposal for that facility is to allow dynamic signage, which can change messages or pictures. It also can be used to show video clips.

The St. Paul Port Authority, which developed Treasure Island-Tria, sought the changes for its facility. But before the council’s Aug. 1 public hearing, a move to drop the minimum 300-foot distance between dynamic signs and residences, places of worship and schools was shut down. Port officials have said they may rent space at Treasure Island to a school and need the distance requirement eliminated. But council members pushed back and dropped the amendment on a 4-2 vote, at the behest of Scenic St. Paul and others concerned about excessive signage.


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