What Do You Do When the City Comes for Your Business? Justice & Drew, April 24, 2017 #TCNT
Monday morning I made an impromptu call into the Justice & Drew show to discuss the plight of my beleaguered client, Dean Bigaouettte, owner and proprietor of Hot Rod’s Bar in St. Paul. The discussion arose out of a story that ran on KARE 11 News the previous Friday.
Dean’s father started Hot Rod’s in April 1969 just down the street from the Snelling-University intersection. Dean later joined his Dad in the business and eventually bought the business from his Dad. This month marks 48 years in business for the little neighborhood bar which has survived much change in the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, if the City of St. Paul has its way, Hot Rod’s won’t be surviving long enough to see the biggest change to come to the neighborhood: the new MLS stadium and redevelopment project directly across the street.
Hot Rod’s liquor license is on life support due to a series of “violations” resulting from undercover sting operations. While it is certainly not unheard of for a liquor licensee to be subject to spot checks from time to time, when “time to time” becomes “almost constantly following the announcement of the stadium project”, one starts to become suspicious.
A few years ago on this blog I wrote about the infamous U.S Supreme Court case involving eminent domain, Kelo v. City of New London. The decision was sharply criticized for its holding that local governments could use eminent domain to take private land and hand it off to a developer to redevelop and increase local tax revenues. In response to Kelo, a number of states – including Minnesota – enacted laws to curb cities from doing just that.
So what does a City do when it can’t use eminent domain for redevelopment? Use its licensing authority, of course.
Hot Rod’s and the surrounding bars are under siege at the moment. The City needs four violations of any kind in relatively short order and it can revoke a license.
With a change coming to City Hall this fall (as Mayor Chris Coleman has announced that he is not running for re-election and instead is running for Governor next year), the City’s hospitality industry is hoping that this change curbs actions such as these.
Unfortunately for my client, that may be too late.