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Bars concerned by proposed Dickinson liquor changes

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Dickinson city commissioners Gene Jackson, right, and Klayton Oltmanns listen to a speaker at a Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall on Monday.

Proposed variations to the Dickinson city liquor license ordinance won't change much, but they would formalize two processes pertaining to the custody of liquor licenses within city limits.

At its regular meeting Monday at City Hall the Dickinson City Commission, without Commission President Dennis Johnson, passed the first reading of an updated liquor license ordinance that would officially allow the Commission to take bar fights and other security issues, even those occurring in parking lots, into consideration when renewing liquor licenses.

"When these renewals come to the attention of the City Commission there will be a staff report that will include any of the pertinent items," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. "Such as quantity of incidences that occurred throughout the year -- the police department tracks those kinds of things -- and severity of those issues."

There was an incident "quite a few years ago" where a bar owner, after having too many calls for fights to his property, was called before the Commission, Bernie's Esquire Club owner Bernie Marsh said. The owner was given time to modify the behaviors of his patrons and his license was not revoked.

"I would guess that would be our history moving forward," Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns said. "We wouldn't just automatically revoke a license because there were issues, we would give that business a chance to correct the errors that -- whether it was bar fights or any other infraction on the license."

Before anything becomes official Commissioner Carson Steiner suggested liquor license holders sit down with the Commission and DPD to discuss options.

Southside Saloon owner Curt Haider worried that fights might break out while patrons who once smoked inside are now not allowed as voters passed a ban on smoking Nov. 6 that officially takes effect Thursday.

"There is going to be people out in my parking lot smoking," he said. "I can't control my outside plus control the inside. My bartenders do a wonderful job controlling -- I'm leery of the way you guys are trying to word this too. ... The last thing any of us want is a fight in a bar. That ruins your business faster than anything."

Haider said the threat of police intervention helps keep fights at bay.

"I wouldn't want anyone to go away with thinking that if they get one too many calls that their license is going to get revoked," Oltmanns said. "So then they just stop calling the police to correct the issues because they're afraid that their license is going to get revoked."

From a police standpoint, bar fights are considered a higher-risk call and at least two officers show up to each call, DPD Chief Dustin Dassinger said.

"Usually the certain time frames when these fights occur is -- we're very busy," he said. "We've got domestics, we've got bar fights, and we've got other related issues going on in town."

There are no specific guidelines set to deny renewal and the decision still remains with the Commission.

"We're just giving ourselves a tool as we review license renewals," Commission Vice President Gene Jackson said.

The city has allowed extensions for construction delays and similar issues on the 12-month period a business has from the time an on-sale/off-sale liquor license is obtained to the time it sells its first drink. The ordinance would formally create a process for receiving the extension.

Other changes were proposed at the Nov. 19 City Commission meeting, but commissioners saw no need to change the residency requirement for a license holder nor make sure that hotel bars holding hotel/motel liquor licenses were mostly serving hotel patrons.

A second reading and public hearing will occur at a later meeting.

The Commission approved a beer-only on-sale restaurant liquor license for TaTu BBQ in east Dickinson.

Jackson led the meeting in Johnson's absence.

The Dec. 17 Commission meeting will start at 4:45 p.m., rather than 4:30 p.m.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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