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Bar Talk: Liquor license ordinance examined by city commission

A possible change to the current liquor ordinance is bringing about discussion from business owners and city officials which led to a special meeting that was held Tuesday at Dickinson City Hall.

A possible change to the current liquor ordinance is bringing about discussion from business owners and city officials which led to a special meeting that was held Tuesday at Dickinson City Hall.

At a prior meeting, Dickinson city commissioners and members of the public read over the ordinance, as it is now, line-by-line and flagging concerns for certain portions.

Those concerns were brought to the forefront for discussion by the commissioners and attendees Tuesday.

"I'm definitely a supporter of small business and of entrepreneurship, and I know that this subject sparks a lot of passion from a lot of people, but I am not opposed to looking at opening it up," Commissioner Sarah Jennings said.

Most of the commissioners-besides Klayton Oltmann who was not in attendance-seemed interested in discussing changing portions of the ordinance.

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Commissioner Carson Steiner, however, cautioned the commission on delving too far into the issue.

"I'm kind of concerned with the direction that we are taking here," he said early in the meeting. "I believe that we are trying to fix something that isn't broken."

People from the audience voiced opposing sides of issues from convenience stores selling liquor to allowing unlimited liquor licenses.

"We've got to be careful when we get into this liquor ordinance because there is going to be some hard feelings either way," he said.

The process will be months away if the ordinance is changed, but for now discussions will continue to be a priority in moving forward.

Commissioner Jason Fridrich agreed that discussions will help.

"I'm not opposed to listening to ideas," he said.

Steiner reminded everyone throughout the night, that he would not vote either way on Tuesday.

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"I don't think there is going to be a decision from any of us tonight," Mayor Scott Decker said. "We have a lot of research to do."

The past two liquor licenses were given under the stipulation that if the population ever fell below 21,000 people, those licenses would no longer be valid.
Those two licenses were also bought using a bidding system with the prices being vastly different.

Decker said he wants to have unlimited liquor licenses-but with renewal rates costing more for new businesses and current license holders being grandfathered in under their current rates.

He said he also wants there to be a set price on a license-which would be more than what current holders paid for theirs. He said that his goal from the beginning was to place value on established businesses that hold a license.

"That gives them an incentive to pursue your liquor licenses if ultimately you wanted to sell and you can sell yours cheaper than whatever price we decide," he said. "First you would be the first option in somebody purchasing it, but if someone goes outside of that and says 'Hey, I don't want to buy your business because it doesn't fit my model, what we want to do.' ... then they have the option to come to the city, but there is a price set. There's no bidding war or whatever."

Shawn Kessel, city administrator, encouraged the commission to examine how they sell and combine licenses in the future.

"This is the area that Dickinson is very unique," he said. "There are very few, if any, cities that combine their on and off-sale licenses like we do. I don't know of any that do that."

Jennings agreed with the idea, saying that she would consider separating the licenses in the future, if the commission agrees .

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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