To help small businesses, lawmakers should loosen regulations
This week is National Small Business Week. And to celebrate small businesses, a bunch of events have been planned around this topic in Minnesota. As the Department of Employment and…
It’s hard to blame businesses considering rebuilding after the riots in Minneapolis for wanting to take additional security measures to protect themselves. They have little choice with the lack of support they received from police when it mattered most.
One obvious, albeit costly, option involves the installation of metal screens and shutters to protect windows and doors from the next time vandals target their storefronts for the fun of it.
Obvious to everyone, that is, except the city of Minneapolis, which has found yet another way to stand in the way of small businesses willing to take another chance on the neighborhood, according to the Star Tribune.
Unlike the City of St. Paul, which allows external shutters as long as owners request a permit, Minneapolis limits security shutters to the inside of a property, leaving windows vulnerable to attack. In a report justifying the rule change, Minneapolis officials argued that external shutters “cause visual blight” and create the impression that an area is “unsafe” and “troublesome.”
But in the wake of the riots, when police failed to prevent widespread looting and damage to more than 1,500 businesses in the Twin Cities, property owners say they can no longer count on the city to protect their property.
“Times have changed,” [Chicago-Lake Liquors owner John] Wolf said. “I am going to spend millions of dollars to bring my business back, and I don’t want to buy 20 window panes and have them broken the first day. Property owners should have options on how to protect themselves.”
Turns out Minneapolis is one of the few cities anywhere that bans the security bars and gates that are commonplace elsewhere around the world. The optics of the buildings evidently matter more to City Hall than the hard-working small business owners and employees inside. And good luck trying to convince the city to give you a break.
Since Minneapolis put the rule into effect 16 years ago, just one business owner has sought permission for external shutters, city records show. The property owner said he needed the shutters to protect his retail shop, which had been burglarized several times after criminals broke in through the windows. The request was denied.
“While someone is authorized to file a variance, it is challenging to meet the legal findings that are necessary to grant a variance from this type of provision,” said Sarah McKenzie, a spokeswoman for the city.
But businesses and other property owners in Minneapolis know there’s one barricade that’s always okay with City Hall–the rules and regulations that make doing business, not to mention rebuilding after a riot, more trouble than it may be worth.