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Report: Warehouse District Live Attendance… Not Great!

Plus local woman in hot bong water, more like Ann(ti)-union Kim, and Londoners don't know shit about MN in today's Flyover news roundup.


Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Let's Talk About Warehouse District Live

Fairly or not, Warehouse District Live will always draw comparisons to Open Streets.

The former is a collaboration between the city of Minneapolis and the Downtown Improvement District (DID) that closes off a block of First Avenue for street games, food trucks, and, crucially, bathrooms during Friday and Saturday nights from summer through fall. Its annual price tag: $750,000. The latter is a beloved, roaming car-free festival that, while still a thing, will look much different this year after the city rejected a proposal from its longtime organizer, Our Streets, that would see the nonprofit... paid for its trouble. The proposed annual price tag: $851,000.

Last year Ward 3 Council Member Michael Rainville attributed an 80% decrease in gun violence to the inaugural run of WDL, among other eyebrow-raising statistics, while touting the series as something of a cure-all elixir for downtown. But, this past Saturday night, the season's first installment of Warehouse District Live looked like this:

Earlier today we asked the city PR department for WDL attendance figures, as well as for plans on how to boost those figures going forward. Our inquiry was routed to Ben Shardlow, chief of staff for the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the DID.

"This past weekend was a very quiet one for downtown, and when downtown is quiet, WDL will be quiet," he tells us, calling the event a "bonus stop" for nightlifers, not a standalone festival. "We know from last year that getting these resources out on a regular basis builds awareness for the rest of the season—it starts small and grows from there over a run of 42 weekend nights."

It's important to stress the (theoretical) importance of events like Warehouse District Live, which (theoretically) contribute to the culture, vibrancy, and safety of cities. Investment is the answer, not subtraction. With WDL, however, something is obviously lacking in the execution. Blogger Alex Schieferdecker has some unsolicited advice, writing...

If I could give one piece of advice to the city or the Downtown Council, it would be this; do some real user research. Interview the people going to Sneaky Pete's or coming out of The Entry or just wandering around and ask them what they'd like to do, what they'd like to have, etc. I think some of the most successful elements of WDL are just basic stuff like bathrooms and food truck options. But also: Go to the Mill District or the North Loop or the Gateway District or Loring Park and interview people who live in those neighborhoods. Ask them what they'd like to be doing on a beautiful summer evening downtown? What would draw them into the city core? What kinds of activities are they looking for?

Fargo Woman in Hot (Bong) Water

Minnesota Reformer's Christopher Ingraham has a weird one from the zany world of state drug laws. Last month Fargo woman Jessica Beske, 43, was pulled over for speeding in Polk Country, Minnesota. Per the charging documents, officers smelled weed and discovered a bong, a pipe, and a glass jar containing a “crystal substance.” No problem, right? Minnesota became the 23rd state in the union to legalize recreational marijuana last year, right?

Wrong. Testing revealed methamphetamine traces on the paraphernalia, in the jar, and in the bong water, though last year's law decriminalized even those sorts of residue. So... all good... right? Not even close. Problem is, according to existing state law, the 8 ounces of bong water is "the same as 8 ounces of pure methamphetamine," Ingraham writes. Thus, Beske has been charged with a first-degree felony that could result in up to 30 years (!) in prison and a $1 million (!) fine.

“It’s against common sense,” she told the Reformer. “It’s against everybody’s common sense.” Adds Kurtis Hanna, a Minnesota drug reform advocate: “The legislative intent behind the weight-based thresholds is to approximate whether a person is an end user or a dealer. The fact that some county prosecutors are subverting that clear intent and are charging end users as though they are wholesalers, ruining their lives in the process, is shameful.”

For much, much more on the many legal and political issues informing Beske's bizarre situation, we encourage you to read the whole story.

Restaurateur Ann Kim Rejects Unionizing Workers

Here's the thing about seemingly progressive business owners, as deeply reported by yours truly last year: It's real easy to talk a good lefty game in the Twin Cities, but pocketbook issues tend to reveal true colors. And, in the wake of her staff announcing their desire to unionize at Kim's last month, we're seeing what widely celebrated Minneapolis restaurateur Ann Kim really believes. In a statement issued late last week, Kim (unintentionally) summoned the say-the-line Bart meme with a quote that ends rather predictably.

Last Friday we received a request for a vote from the union. We agree that everyone deserves the right to a voice and a vote. As an immigrant and minority, I believe in fighting for what is right and working together to make a positive impact for everyone who walks through our doors. What I am most proud of over the past 15 years is our ability to build strong communities within our restaurants and in the neighborhoods we serve. I wholeheartedly believe we can do this together without a union.


To which local hospitality Unite Here Local 17 responded via a statement: "We are disappointed that Vestalia Hospitality has chosen to engage in textbook union-busting tactics at Kim's rather than listen to a supermajority of their workers." (Kim's establishments—Kim's, Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza—fall under the umbrella of Vestalia Hospitality.) Around 60 Kim's workers will soon exercise those rights their boss alluded to in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, one that'll determine whether their workplace will be a union shop. The whole hullabaloo could've been avoided had Kim voluntarily recognized the union.

Kim's briefly closed over the weekend after "a large cement slab and a full can of paint" were hucked through the windows at 1432 W. 31st St. Oddly, its Instagram has since gone private, along with the accounts belonging to Kim's other restaurants.

MN Place Names Confound Daffy Brits

Is it selling readers short to devote the final Flyover slot to viral nonsense, just teeing up a link with minimum effort and even less thought? Maybe. But you gotta see this:

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