Bistro La Roux spices up Lexington’s restaurant offerings

Quad Community Press, September 2014


Bistro La Roux is bringing Cajun-style cuisine to the northern suburbs. Chef Tim Glover and his wife Lori opened the doors of the restaurant the second week of September in city of Lexington, where the couple has been living for 13 years. Located at 9372 Lexington Avenue N., it’s centrally located within the city and is easy to get to from the interstate, making it an easy stop for local residents and Minneapolis-dwellers alike.

The couple considered other locations in the Twin Cities, but decided their hometown of Lexington was the place to open up shop. “The cost to lease in Northeast was substantially higher,” said Tim. “And we felt like the community could support us and would with something like this, and that the community was ready for it. And they’ve proven to be ready for it. I have people ordering oysters, soft-shell crabs, and shrimp Po’boys in as many numbers as I would have in Northeast. People are adventurous and they’re willing to try new things.

“We’re enjoying opening up our doors to the community,” he continued. “The community seems to be really excited about it and appreciative [of what we’re offering].”

The decision to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant came after the continued success of the Glovers’ food truck, Cajun 2 Geaux, which Tim has been running since 2011.

A Louisiana native, Tim has been cooking his entire life. “It’s natural, it’s a cultural thing [down there],” he said. However, it didn’t become a professional pursuit until more recently. He worked in aviation in the military for almost 20 years, and after 9/11 he re-enrolled in the Army National Guard, during which time he attended culinary training at St. Paul College. It was after that, and a tour in Iraq, that got Tim thinking about pursuing his own restaurant venture.

“After sitting in the desert contemplating what the meaning of life was and what the heck I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I decided to do the food gig,” Tim said. “When I got back, I wanted to open a food truck.”

He couldn’t afford to buy a new one, but he had a family RV sitting in the backyard. “I [figured] I could certainly convert one of these with my aircraft mechanic skills. And I did it. My son helped me out—he and I tore it out and put it back together. It was fun,” Tim said. He has been running the lime-green food truck for a couple of years, and after its success and popularity, began dreaming about opening a full restaurant.

Getting to that point has not been without its obstacles, between funding and city regulations. “The biggest challenge was dealing with more of the red tape than we were used to,” he said. “Once you get your health inspection done with the truck, and you’re licensed, you’re ready to go. It’s not the same [with a restaurant]. There’s building permits, there’s codes for electrical and sprinkler systems—all substantially more expensive than the food truck. And the number of employees is quadruple if not more. Then there’s the [point of sale] system.”

However, Tim is excited to finally be open and able to offer the community something different. “Being able to introduce the community to this cuisine is a big thing, and having them experience new things [is exciting],” said Tim. “It’s exhausting, but it’s fun.”

Bistro La Roux offers a more expanded menu than the well-loved classics of Cajun-2-Geaux, along with various theme nights—Monday is Blues Night with red beans and rice, Wednesday is Date Night and every Sunday there will be a jazz brunch with live jazz from various local musicians.

The open, industrial style of the restaurant contrasts with the warm spices and comfort of the Southern cuisine, and fans of Tim’s food truck will find familiarity not only in the menu but also the lime green accent wall in the new space, which matches the Cajun 2 Geaux truck. Tim also hopes to add a live-stream camera to the kitchen in the coming months, with a projection on one of the restaurant walls, so guests can experience the excitement of the cooking process while they eat.

The menu will vary day-to-day in its offerings, giving Tim the opportunity to experiment with different dishes, but it will have a handful of mainstays, as well as a constant selection of local wines and beers.

Bistro La Roux is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays for the jazz brunch. Both dine-in and take-out options are offered.

See original article here.

City of Lexington nixes barber’s license

Quad Community Press, July 2014


LEXINGTON — Starting today, Harold’s Barber and Styling will no longer be able to operate in Lexington. At its June 19 meeting, the Lexington City Council voted against renewing a business license for owner Chris Schroeder due to concerns about recent disturbances at the property on 4115 Woodland Road.

Schroeder, for his part, claims he’s the victim of harassment and false statements designed to damage his local business standing.

The discussion prior to the vote stemmed from a memo submitted by Centennial Lakes Police Chief Jim Coan and City Attorney Kurt Glaser based on complaints associated with Harold’s Barber in the past year.

“The situation has changed very dramatically since the license was renewed a year ago,” said Glaser.

Since last July, the Police Department has reportedly received 35 police calls in connection to Harold’s, and since September, officers have made 25 contacts with the building, located at 4115 Woodland Road. “This is an inordinate number of police contacts,” said Coan.

Many of these calls have related to conflict between Schroeder and the business owners of Blue Collar BBQ, the neighboring restaurant which shares the same building.

“Our officers have been there on a number of occasions to try to mediate the situation, to no avail,” said Coan. “It has been frustrating to our officers, and they’ve conveyed that frustration to us. We thought we could resolve it before this. We feel we’re at the end of the line here.”

Though the city does not perform criminal background checks on business license applicants, after problems began to arise with Schroeder’s alleged behavior in the past two years, city staff carried out further investigations. Council was told that Schroeder has criminal records in five states.

“We were starting to learn about his criminal history, and then his assault charge came up in 2012 and we fully became aware of his complete criminal history, which is very extensive,” Glaser said.

According to staff research, Schroeder has been arrested in Minnesota at different times for a variety of alleged offenses including domestic assault, disorderly conduct and drug crimes. Staff reported that similar incidents were found in Arizona, Texas, California and Wisconsin.

“We were trying to give him the benefit of the doubt in years past, as he’s gotten out of prison, that hopefully he’d mend his ways,” said Glaser. “But this gentleman is attracting quite a number of police calls and absorbing a lot of our resources from the department. It’s tested our patience.”

Schroeder does not deny his criminal history; in fact, he said, his prison time on a drug charge in 2002 helped turn his life around. While he was in prison, he completed training to be a barber and got licensed. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.

Today, Schroeder is married and has three kids and a stepchild. In 2007, he bought Harold’s, which has existed in Lexington in various forms since the 1950s, and moved it to the Woodland Road location in 2012. “Everything was going awesome,” he told the Quad Community Press. “It was a good location; I retained most of my customers.”

In late 2013, Blue Collar BBQ owners Mark Born and Jim Willard began looking into renting the other side of the building where Harold’s is located. Schroeder said the two businesses bumped heads first over parking (he said Blue Collar-associated people continued to park their cars in such a way as to make Harold’s look overcrowded), and he alleged that the incidents slowly escalated into the two men harassing him, from taking down signs for his business to personal insults and more. He said the behavior caused Harold’s to lose business, a charge that the Blue Collar owners also leveled against him.

“It’s a game to them,” Schroeder said. “To me, it’s my life.”

Glaser described the “crescendo” of the situation as the pending disorderly conduct charge, which was issued in January. According to court records, on Jan. 16 Schroeder allegedly screamed at the owners of Blue Collar BBQ and threatened them while they worked on the building. Schroeder said some details included in the criminal complaint were not true and stated that the conflict stemmed from some issues with his business signs being ripped down.

Glaser said the charge reopened the case for an assault charge Schroeder received in 2012 (Schroeder claimed the charge was false, stemming from an incident when he defended a family member). Blue Collar’s owners and Schroeder have filed restraining orders against each other.

Because of all of the issues between the two businesses, the owners of Blue Collar BBQ have told the city they were looking to move their business outside of Lexington if Harold’s continued operating. They told staff that the conflict with Schroeder caused them to lose customers and time, and stated that he was instigating conflict with them.

“I think if we have to look at this from the perspective of ‘What are productive businesses in town?’ [then] Blue Collar BBQ is not attracting these problems, is not generating criminal convictions and seems to be a very productive business,” Glaser said.

Mayor Michael Pitchford agreed. “Probably the most critical thing is that we could lose a good business over this,” he said.

Though Pitchford and Councilman Jack Plasch both expressed that they would have liked to have heard about the situation before it had reached the level of criminal charges, they were both part of the unanimous vote to not renew the business license.

Though Schroeder has mulled waging a legal battle to keep his business, he said he can’t afford attorney costs at this time. His family is considering an out-of-state move, and Harold’s closed to customers on June 28. He thanked his customers for their loyalty and said he’ll miss them. As for the police, legal and city action against him, he said, “They’ve decimated me.”

See original article here.

Trash debate causes uproar

Quad Community Press, April 2014


LEXINGTON — What was intended to be a simple meeting setting a date to discuss the future of Lexington’s solid waste collection process turned into an hour and a half of resident uproar at an April 10 emergency council meeting.

Earlier in the week, residents received flyers from Garbage Haulers for Choice, a group of garbage hauling businesses that campaign against organized waste collection in cities around the metropolitan area. The flyer claimed the Lexington City Council was out to eliminate residents’ “right” to choose their own garbage hauler. It stated the city was in the process of hiring a consultant to help make the change, creating a “government monopoly” on city trash hauling. Residents were urged to contact City Council members, with each council member’s name, address and phone number listed on the flyer.

Thursday’s emergency meeting was called in response to this flyer and the reaction it raised among residents.

“I’ve had six people show up at my door, I had two letters in the mail, an email, and 11 phone calls, and I know there’s more that I didn’t get documented,” said Mayor Michael Pitchford.

Councilwoman Carin Payment explained her understanding of the issue. The city has been exploring contracting garbage services so that fewer haulers will drive on the same streets. “Legislation changed, so it allowed cities to figure out organized garbage collection,” she said. “This [discussion] is coming off everybody complaining about having to pay for new roadways. We had a packed house when it came time for all of the roads to be discussed. Everybody continues to say, ‘Why are taxes going up?’ And ours [the council members’] are too. So this was something that we were looking at as a possibility.

“It is not a decision,” she added. “We’re asking, ‘Would this work out for our community to save our roadways? Would it truly save our roadways?’”

Councilwoman Betty Bailey explained that the council was not looking into using one hauler across the entire city, instead splitting the city among haulers. “We have four haulers in our city now,” she said. “All this is doing is looking at the possibility of [using] those same four haulers but zoning it so each hauler has a different section [of the city].”

Bailey said that the council hadn’t decided the issue; it simply wanted to explore the impact garbage haulers have on local roadways and the cost and choice factors for residents. “None of us would make a decision without a public hearing and getting citizen input,” she added.

Pitchford called the meeting in order for the council to set a future date for a public hearing on the matter, recognizing Lexington residents’ great concern over the matter. “People are upset and concerned, and I wanted to put them at ease to reassure them there’s nothing in place here. This is just a discussion and I would like to hear from the residents,” he said.

“We’re going to let the citizens decide,” noted Councilman Jack Plasch.

The council chambers were packed, with nearly 25 citizens in attendance. Before the council could discuss the matter and get a date on the calendar, citizens began standing up and sharing their viewpoints on the issue.

Resident Chris Johnson was the first to express his disenchantment with the council for considering taking away his ability to choose the garbage hauler he wants. “I like having a choice, and I’d be hard-pressed to believe [zoned hauling] would save money,” he said. Several other residents agreed throughout the meeting.

Councilman John Hughes, who was adamantly opposed to city-contracted garbage hauling in his early years on the council, has reconsidered the issue. “If it can save me money down the road, that’s what I’m looking at,” he said. “Everything [the council does] affects us just as much [as other residents]. But how can you make that decision without more information?”

Hughes would like to see a study on the impact of contracted hauling, both financially and on local roadways. He thinks that citizens cannot create an informed opinion on the issue unless they have more information.

“Staff hasn’t even had the chance to study this issue to advise the council,” said City Attorney Kurt Glaser. “The frustrating thing is, you get the haulers sending these things out as if it’s a done deal. Now everyone is here, based on information that is, frankly, not fair.”

He said preliminary findings by staff will not necessarily lead to hiring a consultant; he said that decision will occur later.

Resident and former city administrator Dot Heifort said she would like to see more information about what other cities have done and the impacts organized collection has had elsewhere.

Resident Russ Baker said that cost savings was the most important issue. “Garbage is garbage,” he said. “Why are we making such a big stink of it? Who cares who hauls it, as long as they get rid of it? That’s what we elect these people to do — we elect them to find a way to save us money.”

Betty Dockham agreed. “We need four garbage companies in this city like we need a hole in the head!” she exclaimed. “That’s that’s why our streets are in such bad condition, because we have four haulers [in a city that is] less than a square mile.”

However, the financial impact was less important for other residents. “You guys were all elected to do a job, but you weren’t elected to take away my freedom of choice,” said resident Mark Kurth.

After hearing residents’ concerns on both sides of the issue, the council decided to set a meeting date in 60 days to share information and listen to resident comments. During this time, several residents and at least one staff member will form a committee to gather information and explore the pros and cons of contracted waste removal. Committee appointments will be added to the April 17 council meeting agenda.

See original article here.

Lexington to challenge DWI ruling

Quad Community Press, December 2013


LEXINGTON — The city of Lexington is throwing its hat into the ring in a court case that could change how drunk driving charges are obtained and carried out in Anoka County and the state of Minnesota.

At the Nov. 21 Lexington City Council meeting, the council approved 3-2 the funding for City Attorney Kurt Glaser to appeal the criminal decision in State v. Gary Johnson. Council members Carin Payment, John Hughes and Betty Bailey voted in favor of the motion, and Mayor Michael Pitchford and Councilman Jack Plasch opposed it.

In the case of State v. Gary Johnson, the Anoka County District Court dismissed a DWI citation issued in Lexington by the Centennial Lakes Police Department. The defendant refused testing, and the court found that a charge for refusing to test (the traditional legal procedure for DWI cases) was unconstitutional because the police department did not first obtain a search warrant.

This decision was made as a follow-up to the Minnesota Supreme Court decision in State v. Brooks, which decided that the legal basis for DWI testing does not improperly coerce a defendant into taking a test, but did not determine that legality when a defendant refused to test. In that case, the defendant had consented to the testing.

In the Johnson case, Judge Jonathan Jasper deemed that charging Johnson with a crime based on his refusal to undergo chemical testing violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizures. Taking a sample of an individual’s blood, breath or urine constitutes a “search,” and an individual therefore has the constitutional right to refuse it without a warrant and without fear of criminal punishment, according to Jasper’s decision.

This ruling, therefore, requires Anoka County law enforcement to procure a search warrant in every DWI arrest where the defendant refuses testing, which Glaser said would have significant effects on cases across the state if other judges start making similar decisions. Getting warrants adds about 30 minutes to proceedings, during which blood-alcohol levels have time to dissipate.

Glaser received the Johnson ruling on Nov. 21 after the decision was filed on Nov. 19.

Lexington had only five days to file an appeal after being notified of the opportunity on Nov. 21, which is why the action item was added to the agenda at Thursday’s meeting. When filing an appeal, the prosecution is responsible for paying the defendant’s attorney fees, as well as the cost of other fees and transcripts, which brought Lexington’s total estimated appeal cost to $7,500.

During council discussion, however, Glaser agreed to donate his time because he believes in the importance of the case and recognizes the significant impact it could have on the state of Minnesota. He estimated that would bring the total cost down to around $4,000.

“There are not many times in my career that I’ve been faced with something this important, that could help out this many people,” he said. “When you find cases like this that have a statewide impact, it’s a unique opportunity for a lawyer, for a police department and for a city. If we prevail, it shines upon CLPD as a department that stands up for things.”

Glaser said that, if Lexington doesn’t make the appeal, he is sure that another city will at some point.

“Somebody has to appeal this — should it be Lexington? Should we spend city resources on this?” he asked the council.

“In the grand scheme of things, we don’t have to appeal this,” he added. “We could let this go. But in the meantime, we know that means for our police department; we’re going to have to start getting warrants. We could wait until another city decides that they want to appeal it.”

Glaser said that in discussing the money issue with city Accounting Coordinator Tina Northcutt, there is money in the Ticket Education Program Fund that is not yet assigned and could be used for this case.

“This does sound like something we really need to do,” said Bailey. “[And Glaser’s] willingness to do this pro bono shows his commitment to our city, our police department, and his caring about the state and its residents.”

Pitchford expressed reluctance about the cost of the appeal.

Council authorized the appeal funds to come from the Ticket Education Fund, not to exceed $5,000.

In other action, the council:

• Celebrated City Administrator Dot’s Heifort’s retirement with cake and coffee at the conclusion of Thursday’s meeting. It was Heifort’s final city council meeting, and Wednesday, Nov. 27 was her final day on staff.

• Repealed the Personnel Ordinance and adopted the City of Lexington Personnel Policies and Employee Handbook in its place.

• Adopted revised city policies, including: possession and use of dangerous weapons, respectful workplace, sexual harassment, cellular phone/texting use, elected official out-of-state travel, code of conduct, statement of values and communication.

• Authorized new city administrator Bill Petracek as a city signatory and to utilize the Lexington Visa credit card, with one to be issued with his name for the payment of bills. Other city signatory authorizations, for Pitchford, Plasch and liquor store manager Jack Borgen, were also renewed.

See original article here.

Chickens welcome in Lexington

Quad Community Press, July 2013


LEXINGTON — As a kindergartner, Jordan Powers appealed to the Lexington City Council for a 45-day in-town chicken variance, which would enable him to hatch chicks and participate in 4-H despite the city ban on fowl. Now, three years later, he is very happy that he will be allowed to keep chickens full-time at his family’s city residence and raise the chicks he hatches instead of sending them to his grandparents’ farm.

After two months of discussion, the Lexington council passed an ordinance at the July 18 meeting to allow city residents to keep backyard chickens. The vote passed three to two, with council members Carin Payment, Jack Plasch and Betty Bailey in favor, and Mayor Michael Pitchford and Councilman John Hughes opposed.

“I’m not against the chickens, but I’ve had enough residents come to me and say that they are, so I have to vote where the residents tell me to vote,” said Pitchford. “It’s nothing against you guys. I like chickens.” In fact, he said, he grew up on a farm and was responsible for caring for his family’s 150 chickens.

The backyard chicken amendment to city code allows residents to keep up to four female chickens as long as the property is at least 10,000 square feet (approximately one-quarter acre) in size and a permit is approved by the city. The permit application must be submitted to the city clerk, along with a $75 fee and scaled diagram or site plan of the location of the chicken coop in relation to other structures and property lines. Permits must be renewed annually; if the applicant’s lot is less than 15,000 square feet in size, he or she must get permission from 70 percent of the owners of property within 150 feet of the property.

Resident John Bautch, who has stated his disapproval of the chicken ordinance at past meetings, was unhappy to see it adopted by the council. “I don’t believe [chickens] belong in a residential setting,” he said. “Plus, I don’t think they’re going to be taken care of like they should be, and I don’t think there’s going to be enforcement done on making sure it’s done correctly.”

Most of the other 15 city residents present at the meeting, however, were there in support of the ordinance and appeared pleased to see it passed. Jon Millerbernd and Ron Garcia, two young residents who originally brought the issue to the council for discussion, were all smiles after the ordinance was passed: they have chickens they were hoping to be able to keep.

Jordan Powers’ parents, residents Jesse and Alicia Powers, along with his siblings Allison and Alexander, were all present and thanked the council after the meeting. They are very eager to begin raising chickens, though they are still deciding if they’ll bring their most recent batch of hatched chicks back from their grandparents’ farm or start with a fresh set of eggs. Alicia said they will, of course, need to get their permit approved and build a coop, but “if I know my kids, it will happen within a month.”

In other action, the council:

  • Approved business licenses for two Redbox rental kiosks, Resolution Engineering, Tires Plus and, pending a background check, Massage by Jennifer.
  • Accepted a $10,000 donation from the Lexington Fire Relief Association for the city’s equipment fund.
  • Approved the purchase of playground timbers for Tot and Memorial Parks. The timbers are used to contain wood chips within equipment areas, and 24 were needed to replace broken ones in these parks. The cost for the timber is $2,545.76, and was budgeted for in the capital improvement/parks fund.

See original article here.