Lakeside/Lester Park & Liquor

Ralph Doty, as Lakeside’s elected representative, was not pleased with Solon’s actions, echoing Myrtle Marshall by referring to the 1890s agreements as a “solemn pledge.” Solon pointed out that Doty was “the only member of the Duluth delegation opposed to the bill.”

Doty tried to remove the Duluth provision from the bill, but his efforts failed. Still, the news was good for Lakesiders who wanted to remain dry: thanks to Doty’s lobbying efforts, the overall bill also failed to get the 34 votes it needed, ending in a 28–28 tie. The issue of allowing liquor sales in Lakeside remained unaddressed for the next few decades.

Ralph Doty. (Image: Minnesota Historical Society)

2007–2008: Lakeside Nearly Opens Up

In 2003, Mary McGregor, then owner of Lakeside’s Pepper McGregor’s restaurant at 4721 East Superior Street, made an attempt to repeal the law but, according to the Duluth News Tribune, “met stiff opposition.” Much of that opposition came from an effort led by Lakeside resident John McAllister, who had fought alongside Myrtle Marshall in 1973. The issue never got as far as the city council, and Pepper McGregor’s closed. Different owners have since reopened the restaurant as the New London Café.

The issue was raised again in December 2007 when outgoing city councilor Laurie Johnson—elected to represent Duluth’s first district, which includes Lakeside and Lester Park—and councilor Russ Stewart introduced a resolution to ask Duluth’s legislative delegation to introduce a bill to repeal the 1891 law in the 2008 legislative session.

Stewart considered the law with a perspective similar to Solon’s, telling the News Tribune that “Every neighborhood in Duluth is special, but none deserve special treatment. This is about fairness; it’s about bringing equal protection of the law under all neighborhoods.” Newly elected first district councilor Todd Fedora, who would begin his term the next month, called the liquor law a “non-issue,” but said he believed eliminating the ban would “create more business opportunities in the neighborhood.”

Russ Stewart. (Image: Perfect Duluth Day)

Scott Marshall, owner of Marshall Hardware and grandson of Myrtle Marshall (who passed away in 1995), said that he opposed the repeal but added that he “wasn’t as passionate about the issue as his grandmother.” He also told the News Tribune that the law “certainly inhibits the restaurants.”

Those opposed to changing the law flooded government officials with letters, emails, and phone calls. At one city council meeting, several Lakeside residents spoke out against repealing the ban, with at least one offering Biblical quotes as evidence the 1891 law should remain in place. According to the News Tribune, Lakeside resident Kenneth Laurion told the council that the New London Café would see its sales improve thanks to God, and added “Our heavenly father has a plan that is guaranteed to help that restaurant.”

Once again the efforts of Lakesiders failed to sway the city council, as councilors voted 6–3 to send the proposal to the legislature. Mayor-elect Don Ness voted with councilors Greg Gilbert and Jim Stauber to keep the ban in place. Mayor Herb Bergson immediately vetoed the council’s decision on the basis that “the administration of the city of Duluth made a promise, and dammit, we need to stand by it.”

Bergson was very likely operating under misinformation. In a recent email exchange, Bergson told Zenith City Online, “When the Marshall sisters willed the East End of Duluth to the city, they demanded that there would be no liquor sold on the land they gifted. That was the deal and that was why I vetoed the council action when the city council voted in favor of the move. Darlene Marshall (the wife of the grandson of one of the sisters) is a friend, so my opinion is tainted, but [the city council resolution to request the law’s repeal] was wrong. The city took all that land and made a promise.”

Bergson’s email indicates he believes that the property that became the City of Lakeside in 1891 was given to the city of Duluth by Julia and Caroline Marshall, which is not true; Julia and Caroline Marshall were not born until after Duluth annexed Lakeside, and neither married nor had children. Further, Darlene Marshall’s husband Scott is a grandson of Myrtle Marshall, who was not related the Marshall sisters.

Stewart responded to Bergson by noting that it is “really misguided to look at every piece of archaic legislation as a promise.” The city council overturned the veto, voting the exact same 6–3 division as when they first passed the proposal.

Don Ness. (Image: Howie Hansen’s Blog)

Despite his vote against the resolution, one of the first things Ness did upon taking his seat in the mayor’s chair was to ask the city council to withdraw its resolution to ask the Duluth legislative delegation to introduce the law’s repeal and instead allow for a precinct-specific referendum that would allow Lakeside and Lester Park residents to vote on the matter. The non-binding advisory vote excluded all other Duluth residents. If it passed, then the council could once again resolve to ask for a bill repealing the 1891 law.

The issue was debated in local newspapers throughout the year. Letters to the editor poured into the Duluth News Tribune. Writing in the Duluth Budgeteer, guest commentator Bryan Olson suggested that “the best way for Lakeside residents to keep their law is to secede from Duluth.”

In the end the referendum came down to the difference of a single vote: 2,858–2,857 to keep the ban in place. Those who voted to eliminate the ban included Jane Gilbert-Howard, who told the Duluth News Tribune, “I was friends with Myrtle [Marshall], and she’d roll over in her grave, but I don’t see a problem with [selling alcohol]. I don’t think there will be liquor stores popping up all over. But, if you’re at the New London Café, it’d be nice if you could have wine or beer.”

2015 & 2016: Liquor Law Repealed

In March 2015, Duluth legislative representatives—acting on a resolution by the Duluth City Council—introduced a bill that adapted the 1891 state law to allow liquor sales at Lester Park Golf Course. It passed, and soon thereafter city councilors voted to allow liquor sales at the public course. Then First District city councilor Jennifer Julsrud—whose support of Lester Park Golf Course redistricting wavered and who was not seeking reelection—proposed another local vote on the matter.

In November that year an advisory, non-binding referendum vote, showed that 67 percent of all Duluthians and 53 percent of residents in the Lakeside/Lester Park neighborhoods wanted the ban repealed. At the end of the 2016 Minnesota Legislative Session Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth introduced a provision to repeal the ban into a supplemental budget bill, which passed. After the city council agreed to the repeal in a 5–3 vote in June, liquor sales were allowed in Lakeside. As of March 2017, only one liquor license has been requested and granted and no brothels have opened in the community. Amity Coffee at 4429 East Superior Street now serves beer and wine.

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Story by Tony Dierckins. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Tony Dierckins.