City eliminates petition requirement, shortens the notification period for 100 Class N licenses

Saint Paul businesses that apply for  new city licenses should enjoy a smoother and faster application process under changes adopted on November 9 by the City Council. The changes, which have been in the works for four years, will take effect by the end of this year. Their intent is to streamline licensing while still allowing local residents and district councils to have their say, according to Dan Niziolek, deputy director of the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections.

“We want to give the message that Saint Paul is open for business,” Niziolek said.

City Council members Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince led the charge for the business license changes. They had the support of the city’s Business Review Council, the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and the Macalester-Groveland Community Council.

Easing the license application process

The provisions relax the notification requirements for license changes, eliminate the petition process for new licenses and eliminate public hearings for license renewals. The city will still have the ability to take adverse action against a business and its license if problems occur, Niziolek said. The requirement that new Class N licenses be reviewed and approved by the City Council has also been retained.

Class N licenses are the most likely to cause controversy. They include more than 100 different business licenses, including on-sale liquor service, entertainment, pawn shops, auto repair, auto body repair, health clubs and used car sales.

New rules for potentially controversial Class N licenses

Applicants for a new Class N license now must provide the local district council with specific information about their proposed business at least 15 days before submitting their license application to city staff. The four-page form must include information on operations and expected parking needs. However, the requirements for notifying neighboring property owners and getting their signatures on a consent petition have been eliminated.

The notification requirements used to give the public 30 to 45 days to object to a new Class N license. That has been reduced to 15 days. However, it is the elimination of the consent petition that could be a game changer for businesses.


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No more consent petitions

Many neighboring property owners are not local and can be difficult to contact. When neighboring properties included a condominium building, the petition could necessitate contacting dozens of condo owners for their signature. That problem became apparent a few years ago when restaurants near Selby and Western avenues wanted to add patio service. According to Niziolek, several prospective patio licensees are just waiting for the changes to take effect.

District councils have long been able to waive the required 45-day notice for an on-sale liquor license. However, just one objection could necessitate a public hearing, Niziolek said. Even if the district council supported it, the on-sale liquor license could be held up for 30 days or more to allow for the hearing.

Removed from the Class N notification requirements are licenses for pool halls, bowling centers, theaters, game rooms, recycling collection and processing centers, and second-hand motor vehicle parts dealers. Some of those businesses are not as controversial as they once were, Niziolek said. Those licenses are now Class R licenses, which include dozens of different business licenses ranging from agricultural vehicle permits to window cleaning.

— Jane McClure


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