Duluth allows restaurants serving alcohol to inch closer to churches, schools

An ordinance change approved Monday night will help a brewpub set up shop without having to reconfigure its entrance at considerable expense.

The location of where a brewpub is planning to open in the former gym/tanning parlor at the corner of 54th and Superior Street in Lakeside. (Clint Austin /

A couple's plans to open a brewpub in Duluth's Lakeside neighborhood received a boost Monday when the Duluth City Council unanimously voted in support of an ordinance change. Where restaurants with beer or liquor licenses previously were not allowed within 400 feet of a church or school, that minimum setback will now be reduced to 300 feet.

Without the change, Seth and Sarah Maxim, the owners of Lake Superior Brewing Co., would have had to relocate the entrance to a former fitness club they recently acquired in hopes of turning it into a brewpub. The non-complying entrance of the building was just a few feet too close to the Spirit of the Lake Community School, located kitty-corner from the building they own at the intersection of Superior Street and 54th Avenue East.

PREVIOUSLY: Lakeside brewpub may prompt Duluth to revise ordinance Current rules would force the pub's entrance to be relocated, at considerable expense.
The board of the Spirit of the Lake Community School has expressed support for allowing the brewpub to open, as-is, without relocating the entrance to the building.

Shifting the entrance of the brick building would have cost the couple upward of $25,000.

"We are very grateful that the city has been proactive and positive toward our business plans, and we do ask that the code be amended to 300 feet," and Sarah Maxim said. "We feel that it will eliminate the prohibitive cost of moving our entrance by a few feet, and it will allow us to utilize the functionality and mechanics of the building for an ideal floor plan."


Noah Schuchman, Duluth's chief administrative officer, said the reduced setback would bring the city's rules for drinking establishments in line with other cities, such as Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington. He noted that a number of other Minnesota cities, including Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato, have no rules regarding the proximity of alcohol licensees to churches and schools.

The ordinance change was proposed by 1st District Councilor Gary Anderson, who represents the Lakeside and Lester Park neighborhoods.

"I believe this ordinance will positively affect potentially businesses all across the city, as small businesses like Lake Superior Brewing have the opportunity to set up and provide services that citizens of our community like to have," he said.

"I think this is a terrific investment in that neighborhood," said at large Councilor Arik Forsman, a former 10-year resident of Lakeside. "We certainly don't want to make changes to our laws unless they make sense for our entire community. So, I appreciate the work that has been going into this to make sure that it made sense."

Forsman went on to say he thinks the proposed ordinance amendment meets that test and should help the Maxims realize their vision.

Sarah Maxim said she has been encouraged by the community's reception to their plans for a brewpub.

"We believe that this neighborhood is eager and supportive of what we're working toward. It's been shown in the folks who stop by with well wishes, and 55 people have even donated their own personal money toward our build-out plans," she said. "So, we're honored to be bringing new life and energy to the Lakeside/Lester Park neighborhood. And it's our desire to create a community gathering spot and to invest in and enrich the east end of Duluth."

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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