MANKATO — Nancy Goodwin was out to dinner at Olive Garden in Mankato recently when a sign caught her eye.
Written on what appeared to be a stone tablet was language from “Mankato city code section 4.045.” It informed patrons it was a misdemeanor to enter the establishment without a driver’s license or picture identification, or in the case of a foreign national, a valid passport.
The language struck her as odd. She knew of many people, seniors who no longer drive among them, who either didn’t have or didn’t always carry such an ID on them at all times — especially when they had no intention of ordering an alcoholic drink.
Goodwin inquired about the sign to a manager, who assured her it was in reference to purchasing alcohol. The fact the sign didn’t include any mention of alcohol came off as too open to interpretation for her.
“It wasn’t clear at all,” she said. “The language of the law felt too broad, so I just questioned it.”
She posted it to her Facebook to ask for her friends’ thoughts on the matter. From there, questions about how the sign came about and what ordinance it was referring to were raised.
Turned out the ordinance the sign referred to doesn’t currently exist, at least under the code section listed on the sign. A similarly worded law can be found under section 4.12 of the city codes, which does say it’s unlawful for someone older than 18 to enter a liquor licensed establishment without a valid ID. Without the alcohol context, however, the sign could send a different message than what the law intends.
Matt DuRose, Mankato Department of Public Safety commander, said the city looked into the Olive Garden signage and concluded the wording was outdated and missing the language referring to alcohol. The ordinance may have been updated between when the sign went up and now, which would explain the code section discrepancy.
Years back the city distributed laminated signs with the ordinance language to liquor-licensed establishments, but DuRose said the version at Olive Garden likely didn't come from the city.
“I can see why some people would have concerns, but that wasn’t the intent of any sign put out by the city,” he said. “We’re not trying to restrict people to enter any establishments that serve liquor.”
The intention was to inform people that an ID is needed if you go into an establishment to purchase alcohol, he said, adding the city plans to reach out to its liquor-licensed establishments about any other signs with old or incomplete language.
No matter how the sign ended up on the wall, Goodwin said she believes the city and the restaurant both had the best of intentions in mind. She just wanted clarity on what the sign was about so future patrons wouldn’t feel excluded.
“I believe they believe they’re just following the rules,” she said.
Hunter Robinson, communications manager for Olive Garden, said the sign was originally posted about a decade ago to be in compliance with Mankato laws. From what they learned in discussions with the city this week, the sign is no longer required. He said the sign would be coming down Wednesday.