A dustup at Dusty’s over live music

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December 17, 2012 // UPDATED 3:10 pm - December 29, 2012
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

SHERIDAN — It’s 8:30 on Saturday night and Dusty’s Bar is dead. Two men are chatting at the middle of the bar while a solitary woman plays touchscreen video games and nurses a beer a few stools down. The Big 10 Football Championship game and Gopher’s hockey flicker on flatscreens over a long row of empty tables and booths.

“There actually used to be some people in here,” said the bartender, who asked not to be identified.

Until late July, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday Dusty’s was home to a crowd enjoying live music. The music stopped after a business licensing inspection revealed that both Dusty’s liquor license and city zoning did not permit live music. Since then business has slowed to a crawl as Dusty’s waits to see if an application for a non-conforming use permit will be approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The Zoning Board will make their decision after a public hearing on Dec. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall room 317. If the Zoning Board votes denies Dusty’s a non-conforming use permit — which would essentially grandfather them into compliance — Dusty’s will have 10 days to appeal. The final decision on the appeal would be made by City Council.

“Dusty’s has offered music for a very long time, there’s been no incidents with the second precinct police, I’ve had no complaints in my office, [owner Pat Stebe] is very popular in the neighborhood and a really nice guy,” said City Council Member Diane Hofstede, who opted to remain non-committal in regards to Dusty’s pending application.

After conducting an investigation on the matter, the Department of City Planning and Development (CPED) has recommended that the Zoning Board of Adjustment deny Dusty’s application for a non-conforming use permit.

“Dusty’s has never legally established nightclub use, and in order to legally establish the use, which would include general entertainment, they would’ve had to have paid for the proper license to do that,” said Shanna Sether, a senior planner for the City of Minneapolis.

The building that houses Dusty’s at 319 Marshall St. NE predates city records, which began in 1890. A plumbing permit for a saloon was issued to that address in 1893, so it’s safe to say alcohol has been served at the site for well over 100 years. Dusty’s has been in the Stebe family since Pat’s father purchased the bar in 1952. Up until 1999, Dusty’s was zoned B3C-2, which allowed for live entertainment and dancing.

In 1999 the City of Minneapolis underwent a comprehensive overhaul of the zoning code. At that point Dusty’s was rezoned as C1, Neighborhood Commercial District, which forbids nightclubs. Dusty’s is classified as a nightclub because 1) its food sales are less than 60 percent of its annual gross income and 2) It offers live entertainment with up to five amplified instruments.

In addition, Dusty’s is currently operating with a Class E liquor license, which states “No live entertainment or dancing shall be allowed.” To operate as they have been operating for the last 50-plus years they would need to obtain a Class C-1 liquor license.

A concern brought up by Council Member Hofstede at a Sheridan Neighborhood Organization meeting was that if approved, the non-conforming use permit would be transferable to any new owners, should Stebe die or sell the property. In the past, a VFW in the neighborhood that had a non-conforming use permit was sold to new owners, and later it became a problem property the city had to deal with in court.

Dusty’s owner, Pat Stebe, has declined repeated requests to comment.