St. Michael Cinema to expand outdoor happenings

At its March 23 meeting, the St. Michael City Council discussed permit changes for the St. Michael Cinema’s outdoor area and received a progress update on Town Center Park.

Deputy Tyler Ellison from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office also mentioned that there has been an uptick in after-hours activity, particularly with minors, now that the weather is getting warmer, and encouraged folks to call in any suspicious activity or unwanted congregation of youth. As per the city’s ordinance, those under 16 years of age have a curfew of 10 p.m., and 16- and 17-year-olds have a curfew of 11 p.m.


Originally set for its March 9 meeting but tabled as per request of the Preserve East HOA, the council considered granting a series of interim use permits allowing the St. Michael Cinema to conduct outdoor events and service. Shelley Schnell from the cinema attended the meeting, and explained their future plans for a multi-purpose outdoor area.

“We know that development needs to happen on the field, whether that’s parking or concerts or music, or whether it’s a combination of both,” said Schnell. “So we think this three-year plan will give both the city and the business the opportunity to see what the community is looking for, what the possibilities are, and where we would need to go if it is in fact a success to keep it out there.”

The three-year interim use permit would allow the theatre to hold festivals, concerts, fundraising events and much more, as they plan to have a food and drink service section in addition to stage capabilities. The HOA in the neighborhood has concerns about the sound level associated with these events, so the cinema and city came up with a plan that shifts the stage away from nearby homes.

The cinema tested these outdoor events, particularly drive-in movies, last year due to pandemic restrictions on indoor entertainment.

“COVID has really changed the movie industry,” she said. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We know it is coming back, so it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when,’ and what we do know is that an experience is what people are looking for.”

She added, “We have embraced and acknowledged and accepted the fact that, as unique as the building is and as beautiful as it is, we need to change up how we show movies and make it more of an experience.”

There is long-term potential for outdoor entertainment at the cinema, and would help out other local businesses as well. For example, the concert tenant they’ve used in the past currently can only work seasonally, but with approval, could expand to year-round in collaboration with the cinema.

The council applauded Schnell and her staff for their willingness to adapt over the last year, and ultimately approved of the interim use permits.

Before the Town Center Park grand opening on June 5, the council will need to hire a park manager to run the concessions stand and maintain upkeep. The council said that this position may be perfect for an individual with summers off, a college student, teacher, or the like. See our employment section for details on this position.

As we get closer to the park’s opening, the city has also been establishing rules and regulations for the park’s facilities and splash pad. As of now, the splash pad is set to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Also, picnic shelters and the Lions Pavilion will be open for large group rentals upon completion.

The council awarded Molnau Trucking with a contract for the 2021 mill and overlay project, accepting their bid of $330,041 for their services.

A citizen had input for the council, asking about the current laws surrounding chickens and backyard coops in town. The council said they will look into the topic further if they see widespread interest in the community.

The council eased restrictions on outdoor patio service for local businesses, as an act of good faith following the last tumultuous year. “It was a tough year last year for businesses, and I think they are still feeling the impact of that,” said Mayor Keith Wettschreck.

The council approved hiring Rob Lindberg as the city’s new Building Inspector. Lindberg was a summer intern with the city of St. Michael in 2016, and city staff are thrilled to have him back.

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