Even though its building is an arson-damaged shell, Big Top Liquors has obtained city approval to renew its off-sale liquor license. The Saint Paul City Council approved the renewal on March 24.

The liquor store at 1544 University Ave. was looted and set ablaze in May during the civil unrest that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is now on trial for the murder of Floyd.

The longtime Midway Center liquor store, which is owned by Applebaum Companies, moved to a former Perkins restaurant in 2018 after its original building was slated for demolition to make way for the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium.

Using the former Perkins meant having to get a waiver from distance requirements because it is within 300 feet of Snelling Avenue Wine and Spirits at 500 N. Snelling Ave. Snelling Wine and Spirits was also extensively damaged in May 2020, but is being rebuilt. 

Big Top’s lease was terminated by Midway Center’s owners last year, along with the leases of other businesses in the adjacent strip mall. A hearing is scheduled for April 6 before city officials on a remove or repair order.

Big Top’s owners have indicated to city officials that they are unaware of any plans by their landlord to include the liquor store in any future redevelopment at the site. An ambitious master plan is in place for the block bounded by Pascal Street and Saint Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. Applebaum Companies has retained a real estate broker and is now reviewing its options.

The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections acted in January to renew the Big Top license. However, because Big Top was forced to close and has not been operating, the request had to go to the City Council for approval. The council’s action allows Big Top to retain its off-sale license until February 1, 2022 while the search for a new location continues.


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— Jane McClure


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