Belfield approves on-sale liquor license in special meeting
The Belfield City Council approved on-site sale of liquor for Superpumper gas station. During the meeting, Councilman Ed Braun raised concerns that the approval violated existing city ordinances.
BELFIELD, N.D. — The Belfield City Council held a special meeting on March 28. During that meeting, councilmembers discussed the permitting of a special liquor license for the Superpumper gas station allowing for on-site liquor sales.
Councilman Ed Braun raised apprehensions with the considerations, noting that approval of a special liquor license for the gas station would conflict with previous ordinances — which he said needed to be addressed before any action should be taken.
“My concerns are the existing city ordinances. Everything that I can interpret out of this city ordinance says we can't proceed. That doesn't mean that the ordinance can't be corrected or changed. I mean, I'm asking for legal (advice) because you know what I'm reading here, it's against an active city ordinance,” Braun said, clarifying the first of the ordinances he was referring to. “They're asking for a beer and wine license. ‘Beer and wine shall be consumed at tablespoons only.’ It doesn't say anything about gaming machines. We don't have a stipulation in there.”
Mayor Marriann Mross suggested that a gaming machine could potentially be considered a table.
By definition, gaming tables are defined as meaning any licensed location for poker, roulette, blackjack, dice, mimi baccarat, baccarat or other multi-participant gaming activities.
Braun and fellow Councilman Bruce Baer raised concerns with conflicts that arise with a second city ordinance, purportedly from the 1980s, restricting the number of liquor licenses to 1 per 1,000 residents.
“I'm not saying we can't do it. But if we're going to do it, we either throw all the ordinances away or we follow the damn things. Which is it? If they need to be corrected, we need to dig them out and correct them so that people can operate legally,” Braun said. “Because if we issue this to Superpumper, then we can come back and hold you accountable that we have ordinances against what you're doing. And that's not right.”
Braun then reiterated that he sees it as a matter of legitimacy in governance.
“And I think it's from our predecessors, this is designed for us to follow. And if we don't like it, we have the option to change it,” he said.
City Attorney Sandra Kuntz provided legal council stating that the city has discretionary authority to act outside of ordinances.
“I agree. If that is outdated, we need to go back and modify it so that there is a complete update to match what you've now have in the works. But I don't think that poses an obstacle to moving forward on this today. Because I think you've already moved past that using your discretionary authority that's also written into the same ordinance,” Kuntz said.
Belfield resident Ryan Hugelen, proprietor of Trapper’s Kettle Inn, spoke out in support of Braun's points and pressed the council on whether they understood their own ordinances.
“My question is, does everyone have a copy of the ordinance? You guys all know what it is? Because I feel like only (Braun) has one in front of him,” Hugelen noted “I don’t feel like you guys are educating yourselves on what the ordinances are.”
Baer responded to Hugelen's question saying that he had read it, but did not have a copy with him.
Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee also addressed the council, explaining his belief in free enterprise and that Superpumper should be allowed to conduct business as it sees fit within law. He also denounced the argument that on-site consumption of beer and wine at gas stations encourages drunk driving, calling it "ludicrous."
“That is completely ludicrous. If I want to go to Superpumper, buy a six-pack, drive down the road and drink it, I’m going to do that,” Lee said. “We’re adults, we’re going to make our decisions… I don’t see this affecting what I’m doing here.”
Lee also said it was the council’s decision to make and that he would provide support to enforce whatever that was.
Councilwoman Pamela Gross motioned to approve the on-sale liquor of beer and wine for Superpumper gas station, which was seconded by Councilman Brett Northrop. The motion was approved in a narrow 3-2 vote, with Baer and Braun voting in opposition.
Residents seeking to read the full meeting minutes of the special meeting can do so by contacting the City Auditor Connie O'Brien or by reading them in the printed edition of The Dickinson Press. Unlike other municipalities on the Western Edge, Belfield does not regularly post meeting minutes on its website.
The Belfield City Council holds regular meetings at 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month, with the next meeting scheduled for April 12.