BEMIDJI – The Bemidji City Council unanimously approved a remodeling project at the Sanford Center during its regular Tuesday night meeting.
In doing so, the council awarded the construction bid to Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. for $110,900, which will come out of the Sanford Center contingency fund.
The project, which is scheduled to be completed by May 24, will consist of replacing a permanent wall dividing the Lakeview rooms with a folding partition wall to allow more booking flexibility, as well as adding four doors opening to the outdoor patio.
The rooms are located on the north side of the Sanford Center and used for various events.
“The Lakeview rooms have a beautiful view of the lake,” city manager John Chattin said. “And everybody wants to be there. But, having it divided in half … you just cannot accommodate most of the events that want to take place there.”
The project is a bit more complicated, Chattin said, because the electric feed for that wing of the building runs through the permanent wall.
“This is an effort to resolve some of those issues and hopefully get more events in there,” Chattin said.
The Bemidji City Council will continue to explore solutions for disruptive outdoor music, which could include a permitting process for music after 10 p.m.
That conclusion came out of a public affairs committee Tuesday night.
The issue of late-night music at the Blue Ox Bar and Grill disrupting residents came to the council during a work session last year. City staff will bring suggestions back to the council at a future work session about possible solutions.
Although specifics of any potential permits weren’t available Tuesday, city attorney Al Felix explained that a permit wouldn’t shield establishments from noise violations.
Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said the current ordinance states that noise that can be heard more than 50 feet from the source between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. is a violation. But, he added, enforcement at this point is complaint-based.
Michelle Soltis, the owner of the Blue Ox, said she isn’t opposed to a permit, but raised concerns over what she said is a subjective enforcement of noise levels.
Soltis also told the committee that she’s looking to sell the Blue Ox, so the committee may be working with someone else in the future. After the meeting, Soltis said she’s selling the bar due to health and personal reasons. She wasn’t sure if any potential new owners would keep the business the same.
--The council approved changes to the public improvement policy after it came back from the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board with no comments.
-- Ordinances allowing licensed brewers to apply for taproom and growler licenses had their first reading Tuesday.
The council also held a first reading to amend the 2013 fee schedule, setting the taproom licenses at $400 and the growler license at $240.
-- No one spoke during a public hearing for a charter amendment concerning election filing dates to be in line with state statute.
Q&A with Bemidji Brwing Co.'s Justin Kaney
Justin Kaney of Bemidji Brewing Co. discusses brewery taprooms and growlers, which were included in ordinance readings Tuesday.
Bemidji Pioneer: What is a taproom and how is it different from anything that’s currently in Bemidji?
JK: A taproom is a unique space attached to a brewery where folks can purchase pints, sample trays and growlers of fresh beer all at the same location where the beer is brewed.
BP: What’s the appeal of a taproom?
JK: A taproom is adjacent to the manufacturing floor of the brewery, giving the community a direct connection to where and how their beer is made. This allows people access to a deeper understanding of the whole brewing process and its agricultural roots. Much of this is facilitated through educational experiences in the taproom as well as tours of the brewing facility.
BP: How have other communities reacted to taprooms and craft brewers?
JK: Craft brewing is really growing, and communities across the country have benefited from the additional cultural component that a brewery and taproom provide. Brewery tourism is also a growing trend, attracting both passersby and beer enthusiasts seeking unique beers exclusive to the area. Microbreweries also bring fulfilling employment opportunities as the companies expand production.
BP: What is a “growler” and how do they contribute to the taproom experience?
JK: A growler is a 64-ounce. container (commonly glass) of fresh beer that can be purchased onsite at the brewery. Similar to an experience at a winery, folks can visit their local brewery and pick up a growler to go and enjoy at the family barbecue or with friends while watching a game at home.