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Restaurant Owners: Ratios Need To Go

Molly Broder (center) talks about the negative effects the 70/30 food-to-alcohol sales ratio has on restaurants.

A city rule is making life—and business—harder for about 70 Minneapolis restaurants, and a collection of owners, restaurant employees and community members are campaigning for its removal.

Originally aimed at keeping bars, and any accompanying trouble, out of more residential neighborhoods, a set of laws added to the city charter in 1997 include sales ratios for some restaurants with beer and wine licenses requiring at least 70 percent of their revenue be from food and no more than 30 percent from alcohol. The city also requires that same beer or wine may only be served to patrons “seated for regular dining that have ordered or have been served a meal.”

Yes, says restaurateur Molly Broder, that means servers and bartenders at these eateries often have to tell customers they can’t serve them a drink until they order food. Broder, who owns Southwest Minneapolis spots Broders’ Pasta Bar, Cucina Italiana and Terzo Vino Bar, is helping drive the Vote Yes on 2 campaign that’s working to educate voters on the ballot question they’ll see when they head to the polls November 4.

Broder, along with restaurant consultant Pat Weber of Mise en Place, chef-owner Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and attorney Justin Jenkins of Winthrop and Weinstine, were gathered at Casa Verde Design October 21 for a Charlie Awards panel to discuss issues facing the local restaurant industry. The 70/30 ratio dominated much of the conversation.

In practice today, the panelists agree, the rule is forcing owners to raise food prices or lower alcohol prices to meet the requirement. Or just violate the rule. Rising alcohol costs—particularly with the high demand for craft beer and increased interest in wines—are the main culprit.

“It’s a dance” for owners, says Weber, when they’re recording their food and beverage sales, one that can result in “some fuzzy math at the end of the month.”

After opening Terzo last year, Broder says she realized right away “there was no way” she could meet the ratio.

“[At Terzo], you can order an $8, $9 small plate and spend the same amount on a glass of wine,” she says. “We saw immediately there was an issue.”

“It’s really important that we’re on the same playing field as others in our same business,” adds Boemer. “This is a really important step for us to grow as a restaurant community.”

Ballot Question 2 (hence the Yes on 2 campaign) asks voters if they want to remove the rule that businesses must serve food with each order, and end the food-to-alcohol ratio requirements. Those licensed to serve only wine and beer would not be allowed to serve liquor. The restriction is part of the city charter, so the change requires a popular vote.

The initiative needs 55 percent of those who vote on it, rather than a percentage of all people voting in that election, meaning voters who skip the question won’t count against the measure.

Find out more about Vote Yes on 2 HERE.


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