Dry in Duluth: The story behind the last dry neighborhoods in the Zenith City

The Future of a “Wet” East-End

Amity Coffee

Amity Coffee is one of two Lakeside/Lester Park neighborhood businesses that have applied for a liquor license // Photo by Bob Gustafson, Visit Duluth

In the past two months, since the ban was lifted, two Lakeside/Lester Park restaurants, Amity Coffee and New London Cafe have applied for licenses to sell beer and wine.

While the door is ajar for others to follow, it’s really only open enough to let in a little light: strict zoning laws greatly restrict the locations where an alcohol-serving establishment could operate.

Besides along Superior Street, the neighborhood is only zoned for residential use. Additionally, any liquor-licensed establishment would have to be at least 400 feet away from the neighborhood’s nine churches and two schools, per city ordinances, which leaves few potential sites where a brewpub or bar could spring up.

“There simply aren’t that many opportunities, there’s no real ideal site,” Dierckins said.

Even so, McAllister sees the removal of the ban will eventually bring more problems for Lakeside/Lester Park.

“I think it will (change). Not initially, but eventually,” McAllister said. “They wanted more tax (revenue) here, but that won’t matter because they’ll have to have more patrol cars breaking up fights. I’m disappointed.”

Lakewalk in Lakeside

The Lakewalk in the Lakeside neighborhood // Photo by Bob Gustafson, Visit Duluth

But because of the strict zoning laws, Anderson sees his constituency maintaining its character.

“Lakeside is a strong neighborhood, its strength is in it being a neighborhood,” Anderson said. “I think that a small brewpub would probably do fine, but its focus is a place to raise a family.”

Ness reflected his fellow politician’s sentiments, adding that whatever changes occur to Lakeside/Lester Park, they will be small.

“I don’t think there is any question that there is demand for a liquor store in the Lakeside business district.  There are a couple small restaurants who will clearly benefit from their ability to sell a glass of wine or a pint of beer. I think it’s unlikely that you’ll see a brewery based in Lakeside, but I think a small pub-restaurant could be successful.”

Alcohol aside, Dierckins, simply sees a matter of unifying a city whose east and west sides have oft been divided.

“We are one city, and no neighborhood within that city should be exempt from the same laws that govern the rest of the community.”

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