Doge Pizza will not be able to stay open overnight, the St. Paul Planning Commission decided May 26. The commission on an 8-4 vote rejected Doge’s request to change its nonconforming use for 629 Aldine St.
The vote is final unless there is an appeal to the St. Paul Planning Commission. The commission’s Zoning Committee recommended denial May 18 on a 4-1 vote.
Commissioners said they are sympathetic to the business owners’ request to stay open later and accommodate a growing demand for overnight carryout and delivery food. But a majority said that the restaurant’s site in the middle of a residential area of Hamline-Midway makes overnight hours disruptive.
Doge Pizza would like to be open overnight, until 4 or 6 a.m. It currently must close at midnight.
The commission’s Zoning Committee has considered the issue twice, voting for denial after asking that Hamline Midway Coalition review the matter again. The district council initially supported the request and then pulled back its support.
The restaurant is a legal nonconforming use, with a longtime permit. Cities grant nonconforming use status or permits for land uses that don’t legally “fit in” with a surrounding neighborhood. In many cases with a longtime property use that predates the modern zoning code, that use can stay with a permit and conditions. Or property owners can make the case to neighbors that a use should be re-established or should continue.
Doge’s building is a former corner store, built in 1915. The city granted a nonconforming use permit for the property to allow a pizza restaurant in 1992, with the condition it close at midnight and stay closed until 8 a.m. For many years it was Cheney’s Pizza.
Several different restaurants have operated in the storefront since 1992. Doge moved in in 2021.
Several complaints have been filed with the city about noise generated by the building’s hood/vent system since August 2021. Neighbors have also complained about trash and what a city staff report describes as “potential prohibited commercial sales activity.” A big complaint is about delivery drivers who leave vehicles running, park on the wrong side of street and generate noise.
The overnight pizza sales started earlier this year. Overnight hours could make or break a struggling small business, said Doge owners Ahmed and Said Abdi. They are working other jobs and are trying to keep the business afloat.
Ahmed Abdi told the zoning committee that the business is not profitable. The extended hours were tried without the restaurant owners being aware of the restrictions tied to the nonconforming use permit. The extended hours have boosted business and meet requests of neighbors wanting an overnight food option.
The busiest time for business is 1-2 a.m. Some planning commission members asked if that extension could be offered instead. That would require a new application.
Senior city planner Josh Williams admitted that the request could be considered in a variety of ways. He recommended denial of the request to expand hours, citing the potential for additional commercial traffic in a residential area and detriment to the character of a largely residential neighborhood.
The issue has generated strong community support and opposition, with dozens of people weighing in on both sides. Doge waged a Facebook campaign seeking support.
Commissioner Mauricio Ochoa spoke in support of granting the request, saying he lives in the neighborhood. Hamline Midway has other sources of overnight noise, he noted.
But Commissioner Kristine Grill spoke for denial, saying the area is “truly residential.” While people have cited the Snelling Taco Bell as being open overnight, it is on a commercial street.
Commissioner Jake Reilly said that while there are other nonconforming uses in residential neighborhoods, there don’t appear to be anything on the order of an overnight restaurant. Reilly said the planning commission must look at the legal foundation of nonconforming uses when making its decision.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here