Tonka Council approves self-serve liquor license

By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers

The Minnetonka City Council approved, at the March 6 meeting, on-sale wine and beer license for Greenfield Natural Kitchen, a new fast-casual dining concept that will offer self-serve wine and beer through an automated electronic identification system.

The application was first presented Feb. 6, when owner Doug Sams explained to the council how the system would be unlocked via radio-frequency identification wristband to ensure compliance with age restrictions and other regulations. Each wristband would be equipped with a unique customer identification to help track system use, while employee “ambassadors” would provide an additional safeguard.
Sams added that the restaurant is expected to have a profit ratio of 87 percent food sales to 13 percent alcohol sales.
“The goal and purpose of the business is to make is easy for people to eat better,” he said.
The council expressed concerns at that meeting whether the concept would adequately enforce laws regarding liquor consumption and prevent underage drinking or unauthorized serving of alcohol.

In response, city staff worked with Sams to provide additional stipulations for the license; pre-education training on liquor compliance for staff, mandatory participation in the city’s best practices program and two unannounced compliance checks from the police department during the first year of operation.
“We feel as staff that those conditions will help the business with this new technology and help the city determine if there are additional safeguards we need to place on the business or if things are working well,” said Community Development Director Julie Wischnack. “We have some concerns but with those conditions we are recommending approval.”

Any proposed changes to the license will be presented by staff later in the year as part of the license renewal process, Wischnack said.
Councilmember Tim Bergstedt said that with the additional precautions in place, the new restaurant would be a positive addition to the city.
“This is a brand new concept to our area. I think staff did a great job with those four stipulations that gives us plenty of protection. I hope it goes forward,” he said.

Council members who were initially skeptical of the concept said the added conditions were sufficient to ease concerns about the new technology.
“I appreciate the effort and I do think it’s an innovative idea,” Councilmember Patty Acomb said.
The license was unanimously approved by the council.

The council also considered a new application from Total Wine for a liquor license, after a previous application failed to pass in a 4-3 vote. While the previous application was for a location on Plymouth Road, the current proposal site is 14200 Wayzata Blvd., the former Golfsmith store at Ridgedale Festival Center.
Council members had cited traffic concerns near Ridgedale Center in denying the previous license; the new site would be have better traffic flow, according to Ed Cooper, Total Wine communications vice president.
As part of the proposal, Total Wine would also purchases the assets of two current liquor stores, Big Top Liquor and US Wine and Liquor, with the intent of closing those businesses.
“We were sensitive to the city’s desire to limit the total number of liquor stores,” Cooper said.
Resident John Wallace mentioned during the public hearing that the size of the proposed Total Wine location, almost 25,000 square feet, would still be problematic.
“To me, you’re replacing a 7/11 with Costco,” Wallace said. “I don’t see how that intersection can sustain the additional traffic that Total Wine will generate.”

The council also received two letters from residents in support of the proposal.

Wischnack added that Total Wine had filed a court appeal against the council’s denial of the previous application. Communication with Total Wine officials had indicated they may withdraw the appeal pending the decision on the current application, Wischnack said.
The public hearing on the Total Wine application will be continued to the May 1 council meeting.

Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]