New drive-thrus? Minneapolis City Council doesn't want ‘em

New drive-thru businesses will be banned from being built in Minneapolis under an ordinance the City Council unanimously approved on Thursday.

Disabled residents said the move ignores their concerns because drive-thru lanes remain their best option to pick up needed food and medication.

But council members argued the action would cut down on exhaust from idling vehicles, limit the size of parking lots, and improve pedestrian safety. Residents have long complained about traffic and light pollution spilling into neighborhoods, supporters said.

“With everything, there are trade-offs. The amount of pushback and opposition we hear about drive-thrus is really strong every time one is proposed,” Council President Lisa Bender said in an interview. “Increasingly, we hear that residents just don’t want that type of development in their neighborhoods.”

The ordinance does not apply to existing drive-thru locations and will not force any business to close, Bender said.

Drive-thrus became a staple of 20th-century car culture, but for years, Minneapolis has been slowly restricting where such businesses could be built. Until Thursday, the city still allowed new buildings to rise in parts of north and northeast Minneapolis and small pockets on the south side.

One drive-thru business, which council members did not identify, has already submitted a complete application to the city and will be considered. Otherwise, the ordinance will prevent all future applications.

Dan Klassen, a southeast Minneapolis resident who has Parkinson’s disease, said council members do not seem to understand how difficult it is for people with disabilities to walk through stores to pick up medication.

“You’ve got to hang on to a cart, make your way to the back. So there’s a big difference,” Klassen said in an interview at his home. “Sounds like they didn’t take the opinions into consideration when they were voting.”

The Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities also opposed the legislation, citing the value of drive-thru lanes to disabled residents.

“New technology and practices have improved access to goods and services; however, it is still a necessity to advocate for barrier removal and equitable access,” wrote the committee’s chairman, Ken Rodgers.

Bender predicted that all drive-thru lanes would eventually be replaced by delivery services and parking lot pickup areas.

In her ward, blind residents are put at risk by the extra driveways that many businesses with drive-thru lanes require, she said.

“In Uptown, we have a lot of folks who are sight-impaired or blind who are mobility-impaired and relying on our sidewalks,” Bender said. “When you have drive-thrus, you have a lot of cars coming and going.”

Klassen’s pharmacy, the Walgreens on Lake Street, is unaffected by the ordinance. But he said those who don’t have a drive-thru pharmacy nearby will never have the opportunity to get one.

“We’re kind of the forgotten folks. All these scooters and bicycles around town, they don’t help us very much, whereas the drive-thru does help us,” he said.