Dinkytown businesses: Consistent rowdy teenage crowds force early closures, hiring private security
Business owners in Dinkytown spoke out as rowdy crowds of teenagers continue to cause disturbances in the neighborhood.
The University of Minnesota, in response to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Wednesday, said it will continue the ‘Dinkytown Safe Streets’ initiative in partnership with Minneapolis Police through July, including increased police presence in the area on the weekends.
Targeted efforts like the ‘Dinkytown Safe Streets’ initiative have helped to deter some of the groups, but when extra officers leave, it’s back to ‘business as usual,’ said Frank and Andrea Pizza co-owners Shaz Khan and Antonio Gambino.
Khan and Gambino went into business around eight years ago for three reasons: New York-style pizza, heaping Philly cheesesteaks and serving up both to University of Minnesota students who are concentrated in and around Dinkytown.
“I’ll be honest, like, if I saw this now and this space became available, I probably wouldn’t take that risk,” Gambino said while sitting on the restaurant’s patio on Wednesday.
The shift in mindset can be attributed to consistent large crowds of kids and teenagers wreaking havoc on businesses and the students who live, work and dine out on the block in the last three years, the co-owners said.
“We have to worry about the whole block, the whole street, like, who’s coming in? Who’s outside? Who’s driving by? Who’s shooting off fireworks? Who’s jumping, you know, our customers, our students?” Gambino added. “It just, it doesn’t make it fun anymore, you know?”
“We pay for private security to patrol the area,” Khan said, adding it was an investment they made about three years ago.
Directly across the street from Frank and Andrea, the Kollege Klub bar also has its own security, according to general manager Regan Haffele.
“These are all juveniles from around the metro area, just down here to cause trouble,” Haffele said.
A video Khan shared from outside Frank and Andrea on Wednesday night showed dozens lingering on the block as horns and sirens blare, seemingly attempting to break up the gathering.
Both businesses shut their doors early that night.
“There are 100 people, kind of congregating, shooting fireworks off, and let’s say those people decided they want to come to our establishment. We just didn’t have the staffing that could stop them from coming in,” Haffele said.
The holiday weekend consisted of more of the same, Khan added.
“People were still having fireworks shot at them, you know, more altercations, fights in the street,” he continued, saying it forced the second closure in a week on Monday.
“Generally, I can spot the same people from the night before out here again,” Haffele added.
Management for both businesses expressed they don’t have the answer but are hoping city and state leaders will try to find one.
“I’m gonna double down,” Khan said at the conclusion of the interview. “I’m gonna say, you know, to the governor’s office, to the mayor’s office, please reach out to us directly. We want to have a conversation directly.”
Customers and staff have not been hurt at either establishment, they said.
“We’re just hoping that this area becomes safe again for the students, our staff, our patrons,” Haffele concluded. “And I believe it’s a problem that can be solved.”