Closing Time

If Governor Ritter has any doubts about putting pen to paper to sign the long-overdue repeal of Colorado’s Sunday liquor ban, he should remember that the state’s honor is at risk. This is Convention Summer, and Minnesota sure as hell isn’t going to beat us to the booze.

A legislative proposal in the Twin Cities that would allow cities within 10 miles of the Republican National Convention hub, the Xcel Energy Center, to extend their closing time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. for the 11 days surrounding the convention has met with an icy reception. The proposal also includes a reprieve of a Sunday liquor store ban, allowing temporary hours for the convention duration.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the St. Paul City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday to ask that the proposal not be enacted, with council members variously citing the cost for extending security—perhaps around $500,000 for police officers already working 12 hour shifts—and the possibilities for disturbances, finely illustrated by council member Dave Thune to include “puking Republican lobbyists.” Some think the proposal tantamount to a Sin City nightmare—an inexorable, imminently tragic slide into being Las Vegas. From the Mill City Museum and the Ramsey County Historical Society to the Liberace Museum, from the banks of the Mississippi to the concrete canals of the Venetian, is the city tilting towards the desert of depravity?

The ideological split is considerable. The paper reports that St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman said he had concerns about the costs involved but wanted to work with other cities so as not to put St. Paul bars and restaurants “...at a competitive disadvantage with other entertainment venues in the area,” no doubt referring to the late-night admissions at the Historical Society. While some council members felt blindsided by the proposal, saying that this wasn’t what the area signed up for in hosting the convention, others are looking to rehabilitate the Twin Cities image. “People don’t say, ‘I’m coming to Minneapolis to have fun,’” the paper reports council member Ralph Remington’s plea for change.

Remington is probably right. People begrudgingly come to Minneapolis, sans late-night and Sunday booze, for lakes, mosquitoes and body-sized wood chippers. People come to have fun in Minneapolis, with its temporary splash of delicious northern fire juice, for skinny dipping, mosquito wrestling and Republican delegates tossing themselves into wood chippers.

But it was Representative Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis who truly threw down the gauntlet to the proposal’s opponents. “They don’t have to do it,” she said. “Maybe St. Paul doesn’t want to be big city,” so quoted the Star Tribune.

There’s a fine line between being a big, respectable, convention-hosting city and being Las Vegas. Hopefully there’s some room between Jennifer Veiga’s bill for a Sunday liquor sales in our fair state and selling your kidney to a Barbary Coast casino concierge for a nickel to hit it rich on the penny slots and pay back that one-legged Pahrump hooker who promised to play it just how you wanted it in the oh-so-bad.

And let’s face it. We’re going to have Democratic lobbyists puking in the streets regardless of when the bars close or the stores open. It’s tough to stomach the prospect of throwing away another election against a de-facto incumbent when the economy’s tanking and 81 percent of Americans think the country’s headed in the wrong direction. A little nip of spirits might make the whole thing manageable after all.

-- Joe Horton

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