A vacancy left by Cheapo Records paved the way for Buffalo Wild Wings to call the Snelling Avenue strip mall its new home, leaving local residents and students with mixed reactions.
Many St. Thomas students are excited for the new restaurant, which will be located 11 blocks from campus. Senior Michael Becker said Buffalo Wild Wings will be an exciting new addition to the area.
“I think it will certainly draw a lot of St. Thomas students. I know it’s a pretty popular hangout,” Becker said. “I think it will have an impact on St. Thomas in that it will give students another place to hang out and watch sports and build community.”
Neighborhood resident Brian Quarstad created a virtual Buffalo Wild Wings. Quarstad said the mock-up isn't exact, but it is a pretty accurate depiction of what the restaurant chain will likely choose. (Courtesy of Brian Quarstad)
However, not everyone is excited about the restaurant. Many residents in the area aren’t sold on the venue settling into their historical neighborhood.
“(Buffalo Wild Wings) advertises that they are a place for a lot of fun and it’s loud and there are 40 televisions and a lot going on,” Resident Brian Quarstad said. “That is a concern because we still are a neighborhood.”
Quarstad, along with some other residents, created a Facebook page titled “Citizens for a Better Snelling Avenue” to raise awareness about the community’s concerns.
“Well it’s already a problem especially on weekends with O’Gara’s. Now we have a double whammy,” Quarstad said. “Especially on weekdays, I start work early in the morning, and I have to get to bed early. How is that going to affect neighbors and the neighborhood with loud noises, even if people don’t intend to?”
Becker said he can understand where the local residents are coming from, but he doesn’t think it will cause an issue between students and residents.
“I don’t think the neighbors or community should be upset with the university … because it is a business that is obviously not affiliated with the university,” Becker said.
One draw to the location is the close proximity to surrounding universities. St. Thomas Neighborhood Liaison John Hershey said St. Paul is broken up into planning districts, each with its own organizations that can make recommendations about the quality of life in their area.
“You’re putting this new thing, that is likely to attract a lot of people, into a residential neighborhood,” Hershey said. “You can imagine the kinds of fears that it brings.”
Freshman Ty Vincent said that the addition of a restaurant chain will benefit the area.
“A lot of the restaurants around this area right now are kind of locally owned,” Vincent said. “A lot of people like the big chains. I think that might help the revenue in the area.”
In terms of St. Thomas’ relationship with the local community, Hershey doesn’t expect that Buffalo Wild Wings will put it in jeopardy.
“I don’t see it as a university issue other than, if students go there and misbehave on their way home,” Hershey said. “As far as it affecting us or our relationship with the community, I don’t see that happening, but I do see the fabric of the neighborhood being threatened and changed by it.”
With a full liquor license, Buffalo Wild Wings could attract surrounding college students to the restaurant and bar setting. Hershey doesn’t think alcohol consumption should affect the view residents have on St. Thomas students.
“I think the larger concern with the community is probably just people in general. There is a subset of people who are of age who go to St. Thomas and who may go there (Buffalo Wild Wings),” Hershey said. “There is also a subset of Macalester students, of Concordia St. Paul students, of Hamline students, of any students.”
Quarstad said of 13 Buffalo Wild Wings in the Twin Cities area, this is the first one to be “plunked” down in a residential neighborhood, and they haven’t heard from the restaurant.
“So far, our communication has basically been with the land-use committee and somewhat with the Union Park Community Council,” Quarstad said. “There has been no communication with Buffalo Wild Wings, and that has been part of the frustration.”
Although there is some disagreement about the aesthetic appeal of the bright yellow signage and sports-oriented environment, the site is currently fenced off and construction is underway.
Quarstad said he can’t prevent the restaurant chain from becoming his new neighbor, but he would like it if the chain would work toward an agreement with the residents who love the area.
“We live here for a reason we like the city we like the diversity. We like the little small shops, we like the little small restaurants, we like all those those things. That’s why we live in the city we love that about the city, its vibrant,” Quarstad said. “We need them (Buffalo Wild Wings) to come out of that shell and kind of think that same way.”
Quarstad said residents have yet to hear when the restaurant will open.
Zach Zumbusch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.