Anoka looks to extend 2 a.m. bar closings an extra day each week

The Anoka City Council has plans to expand its special 2 a.m. liquor license to also include Sunday nights.

The change in rules comes after a request from some local bars to be allowed to stay open late more often.

There are currently five bars in Anoka who pay an additional annual fee to stay open until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday nights.

Once the rule change is finalized, bars will also be allowed to stay open late for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 17. Special event days when bars can stay open until 2 a.m. also include the night before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and July 4.

On the books, the expansion will actually include Monday morning, but it will be Sunday’s business hours that are actually lengthened to 2 a.m.

Currently, there are five bars that hold special 2 a.m. licenses. They are Beerbelly’s on Main, River City Saloon, Billy’s Bar and Grill, MacGillycuddy’s and Courtside. All five are in Anoka’s downtown entertainment district, either on or nearby Jackson Street.

The special 2 a.m. license has a $500 feel in addition to the regular on-sale liquor license.

During a work session last month, MacGillycuddy’s owners Todd and Jackie Young told the council they would like the option to stay open late on Sunday nights, if the bar is busy enough to warrant it.

There have been concerns about Anoka bars’ ability to compete against establishments in Coon Rapids, which are allowed to stay open until 2 a.m., seven nights a week.

At its meeting Sept. 3, Billy’s owner Paul Justen asked the council to expand the 2 a.m. allowance to seven days a week to avoid any confusion.

He said it would make it easier to compete if all the 2 a.m. licensed bars could stay open late every night. But he said it wouldn’t mean Billy’s would stay open late all the time.

“But if parties were coming in, we would at least have the option,” Justen said. “It’s nice to be competitive with Coon Rapids.”

But the council wants to start small, with adding just one day a week, plus St. Patrick’s Day.

“We have decided to take baby steps to see if it works and see if there are any issues from allowing these later nights,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver.

If it goes well, the council could revisit the rules again.

With the special license the bars can decide if they want to stay open until 2 a.m. on the designated days, but it is not required.

The city is expected to finalize the change at the Monday, Sept. 16 council meeting.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at
[email protected]