At the start of the football season, Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed a plan to bring life to the area around the Metrodome by allowing food trucks to set up near the light rail tracks before games. “Railgating” has been a hit with fans, who have embraced the opportunity to sample fare from over a dozen popular Minneapolis food trucks.
However, the program is far less popular on the west side of Downtown. Railgating is pulling customers away from the Warehouse District and hurting businesses that depend on strong game day traffic, said Warehouse District Business Association (WDBA) executive director Joanne Kaufman.
“We have bars that are down by as much as 55 percent,” said Kaufman. “And this is coming off of a summer that has been challenging at best.”
During the summer, the Warehouse District was plagued by stories of late-night fights and criminal activity that led the City of Minneapolis to draft new guidelines on how to deal with problem venues. A set of voluntary guidelines for such venues helped bring crime back down, but many businesses in the area are still feeling shaky. Game day revenue is built into the business plans for these bars to help them get through tough times. Kaufman said that revenue has been on the decline since the start of railgating.
Tim Mahoney, president of the WDBA and owner of The Loon Café, said his business has seen a decline, but not as dramatic as some of the other businesses in the area. He said he supports the idea of railgating, but believes the idea was developed too quickly. The WDBA proposed game day block parties in the Warehouse District to encourage fans to start on the west side and travel east along the light rail line, but those plans ran afoul of state law.
“The idea is a good idea, but it needs to be looked at and done property,” said Mahoney. “It has had an effect on our businesses in the Warehouse District. And the West Bank is more affected than we are.”