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Finding Minnesota: Wayzata's 'Muni'

By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV

WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) -- Raising taxes is not a popular political move, but cities have to pay for their services somehow. What if they sold burgers and booze to help pave the streets and maintain the parks?

The city of Wayzata has been doing that for 64 years, at Wayzata Bar and Grill, better known as "The Muni."

For each bottle of wine, beer or liquor that customers drink -- or each flame-grilled burger they eat –- more money goes into the city's general fund.

"I try to drink as much beer as I can," said Gary Yanish, one of the regulars.

It's a bar, restaurant and liquor store under one roof.  Combined, they clear about $250,000 each year for public works projects in Wayzata.  That takes care of nearly 9 percent of the city's budget.

"We're the only restaurant that's a municipal, left in the Twin Cities," said General Manager Gina Holman.

It has a regular cast of characters who show up three or four times a week.

"You always just know somebody," said Mary Fenske. "You can come here by yourself and you'll know five people."

Greg Rye calls The Muni his "office," since he often hosts two business lunches a day there.

"I can be sitting in this booth," he said, "and I can look across the room and see the guy that dry cleans my shirts and I can look down the road and see the mayor and I can look across the bar and see my banker, my accountant or my financial planner."

With the municipal liquor store attached, it essentially gives the restaurant one of the largest wine lists around.

"We'll get a bottle of wine and bring it over here," said Judy Higgins, "and they just charge you the $5 corking fee."

The Muni's days are numbered, though, at its current location. The entire block is about to be leveled for a new housing, hotel and retail complex.

But The Muni isn't going far. In fact, it's going just across the street to a new facility. After last call at the end of this month, a parade of regulars will help them make the move.

"I've planned on it," said Barbara Lelek. "I mean we've got it on our calendar. We're definitely going."

Eventually, the city of Wayzata hopes the new "Muni" will pull in twice as much revenue for its general fund.

The big move takes place on Thursday, April 28.

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