Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

KAAL Gets Red Sea Story Wrong

Channel 6 news, KAAL, has run what appears to be an unfortunate story about the Red Sea bar's request for a liquor license upgrade.  I know this business well and have been following this closely and want to use this blog to add some pertinent facts that didn't make it into the story.
  • The story states that "As it stands now the city isn't accepting public comment on this issue," but fails to note that this is because the formal public hearing on the license upgrade was already held, on November 5th.  Many West Bank stakeholders, both businesses and residents, came to testify on the Red Sea's behalf.  Exactly no one came to speak against the license upgrade.  (It's interesting to note that many of those who came to speak are practicing Muslims and do not generally support drinking establishments.)  Here's the list of West Bank folks who showed up to speak in favor:
    • Todd Smith, owner of the Nomad World Pub
    • Ahmed Hassan, resident and Executive Director of the West Bank Community Coalition, the official neighborhood group
    • Abdulkadir Warsame, resident and Executive Director of the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association
    • Mohammed Jama, resident and leader within the Cedar Riverside Youth Council
    • Jim White, representative of major landowner Fine Associates
    • Tsegaye Hibeshi, resident
    • Hani Mohamed, Cedar Riverside Program Manager for NRP
  • I am paraphrased as saying that the business owner "has the support of most surrounding businesses." This is true, but I also mentioned that he has the support of West Bank residents.  That isn't included in the story.
  • Russom Solomon, one of the Red Sea's owners, is a dedicated volunteer leader on the West Bank.  He chairs the West Bank Safety Committee and serves on the boards of both the West Bank Community Coalition and the West Bank Business Association.
  • The Red Sea has applied for an upgrade to their liquor license because City Licensing staff requested that they do so.
  • The majority of the 25 police calls to the Red Sea cited in the story appear to be for issues unrelated to problems at the business.  Many appear to use the Red Sea's address to identify issues at the nearby City-owned parking lot, and many are walk-throughs by the West Bank's beat officers.
  • The story states that 25 police calls are "more than comparable bars in the area."  The story shares the number of calls for one nearby business.  There are at least nine liquor establishments within three blocks of the Red Sea.  My office has not received any information that the actual number of calls to the Red Sea (and not, for instance, to the nearby parking lot) is greater than the average for bars on Cedar Avenue on the West Bank.  My office has asked for the police calls for all West Bank bars, and will analyze them.  I can state unequivocally that my office has received many more complaints about other liquor establishments in the neighborhood than about the Red Sea.  As of now, the statement that appeared in the KAAL report is indefensible.
I think that it is important for me to note that I have a long standing working relationship with Mr. Solomon and that I held a campaign fundraising event at the Red Sea in the past.  I know how upset he was about the recent incident and I have faith in his commitment to run a good business and promote a safe neighborhood. 

The Clerk's notes of the public testimony regarding the Red Sea's application are below.
        Thomas Smith, the President of the West Bank Business Association and owner of the Nomad World Pub at 501 Cedar Ave S, spoke to the class of entertainment associated with the different liquor licenses.  In regard to the Red Sea’s application, he provided supportive remarks of the business owner and his activities in the neighborhood. 

        Tsegaye Hibeshi, 616 19th Ave S, a resident in the neighborhood for 20 years, and the Red Sea has importance and use it for fundraising, a place to take kids and families, and a place where most of the residents go to socialize.  The owner is involved in the community and the Red Sea is not like an ordinary bar but has a relationship to the community.

        Hussein Ahmed, Executive Director of West Bank Community Coalition, 420 15th Ave S, spoke in support of the Red Sea Bar and Restaurant, and the efforts/work of the owner, Mr. Solomon, in neighborhood activities, specifically as the Chair of the Cedar Riverside Safety Committee.  His personal message as the Executive Director was that he has receiving nothing but positive feedback from the residents, and they are very supportive of Mr. Solomon.

        The Executive Director of Cedar Riverside Tenants Association, 614 19th Ave S, spoke to the Red Sea’s good reputation in the neighborhood and their engagement in the community.  He was supportive of Mr. Solomon and the Red Sea establishment and would like them to have the same license as they have in the past.

        Jim White on behalf of Fine Associates, 916 IDS Center, spoke in support as a member of the West Bank Business Association and described Mr. Solomon’s work with the neighborhood, NRP Board.  He thought it was a great establishment and was in support of the license.

        Cedar Riverside Program Manager for NRP, 420 10yh Ave S, spoke in support of Mr. Solomon.  She has worked with him for the last seven years, and was in agreement with the previous speaker’s comments and Mr. Solomon’s work as the Safety Chair for the community.  She has no doubt that the business owner is responsible and they should be allowed to continue operations; further, that the business has 100 percent support from the neighborhood.

        The General Director of Cedar Riverside Youth Council, and co-worker with
Mr. Solomon, spoke in support; he indicated that Mr. Solomon is a friendly person and a role model for East African youth in the neighborhood.  He hoped that City politics wouldn’t stop him from being granted the liquor license.


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