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City of Dickinson reviews event alcohol beverage permit

During the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, City Attorney Christina Wenko brought forth to the commission the option to amend the ordinance in order to include lodge and club licensee holders.

Commissioner Jason Fridrich, left, and Mayor Scott Decker, right, listen to City Attorney Christina Wenko during the public hearing discussion on alcoholic event beverage permits Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at City Hall.
Commissioner Jason Fridrich, left, and Mayor Scott Decker, right, listen to City Attorney Christina Wenko during the public hearing discussion on alcoholic event beverage permits Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at City Hall.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — In January, the City of Dickinson adopted changes to Chapter 4 of the City of Dickinson's Municipal Code, codifying the event alcohol beverage permit process. However, the newly adopted code prohibited organizations, such as clubs and lodges, from obtaining a special use permit.

During the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, City Attorney Christina Wenko brought forth to the commission the option to amend the ordinance to include lodge and club license holders.

“If you recall the discussion that we had at the last commission meeting, the changes that were adopted in… early January changed and codified the special event permit that made it unequivocally clear that you had to have a class A, which is the on-off sale license, in order to be able to apply for and obtain an event alcohol beverage permit,” Wenko said.

The instruction given to the commission on March 1 in its last meeting was to broaden the scope of the code to include lodge and club licensees. Wenko asked the commission whether they wanted to expand the code to permit all alcoholic beverages licensees, such as restaurants, noting that if the commission were to proceed with opening it to any licensee, the city should consider what limitations, if any, would be instituted.

During the public commentary portion of the March 1 meeting, commissioners heard from the Dickinson Eagles Club who expressed their frustration with not being qualified to provide off-site catering under the current city’s new code. With the approaching March 19 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit, the Dickinson Eagles Club were requesting a special use permit for the event by the commission. Commissioners agreed that the a special use permit should be granted for the Eagles Club.

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“... When we were discussing Chapter 4 (and) put this into effect, we were so wrapped around the axles about convenience stores that this was not looked at,” Decker admitted.

During the public hearing discussion, commissioners also heard from Phat Fish Brewing on how the newly codified ordinance negatively impacted their business by preventing the ability to host off-site events, including the King of the North Powerlifting Competition where they were expecting to cater to more than 1,000 people.

With the previous exception made to the Dickinson Eagles Club, the commission agreed that it would only be fair to provide a special use permit to Phat Fish Brewing.

Commissioner John Odermann motioned the special use permit with a second from Commissioner Nikki Wolla, which carried 4-1, with Commissioner Suzi Sobolik voting in opposition to the special use permit.

With both businesses receiving special use permits, the question remains on whether the city will exercise equal application of the special use permit for other entities and businesses.

In addition to special use permits applications, a concern with establishments using the city’s right-of-way on sidewalks raised some questions from commissioners.

“... So far, the amendment, as we have discussed, is the license for on-off sale license — lodge and clubs — to include restaurants as long as they cater the caveat provision that they must cater the event that they’re asking (for) the special use permit,” Decker said. “But the question on the table is what are we going to allow on special use permits such as if DePorres wants to section off a sidewalk… to have a special use permit and would we allow them to use their beer license, essentially, for that special event?”

Commissioners Jason Fridrich expressed that the code does not fully explain the ordinance.

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“It shouldn’t be that confusing,” Decker said, adding, “Municipalities across that nation that I’ve been in have sidewalk dining; they allow (for) people (to) sit out there and eat and drink. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. This should be something that’s very easy. I think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. We just need to be consistent on our molehill.”

Odermann motioned to approve the changes to include lodges and clubs and restaurants if they cater the event for special use permits, followed by a second from Sobolik with the motion carrying in a unanimous vote.

The Rock, located in Dickinson, is pictured.
The Rock, located in Dickinson, is pictured.
Dickinson Press file photo
The outdoor patio area of Blue 42 in downtown Dickinson is pictured.
The outdoor patio area of Blue 42 in downtown Dickinson is pictured.
Dickinson Press file photo

Before the vote, Fridrich noted, “But according to what we’re approving here, they would not be allowed to take it outside their walls… They have tables on the sidewalk like Blue 42 does (or) like The Rock does. That is outside their walls and they do not designate that area in their license renewal.”

Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger approached the podium, explaining to the commission that those establishments — Blue 42, The Rock, Esquire Club — do apply for a public space right-of-way permit.

“When they have special events, then they apply for a special event permit to have the ability to serve large groups of alcohol, such as when you have your Roughrider Day events and stuff like that where they can have their beer gardens on the sidewalks,” Dassinger said. “But we haven’t required like Blue 42 to have a special event permit that is a smaller area. People just recognize that sidewalk permit in a sense to be able to allow them to serve their food out there and their alcohol.”

Fridrich asked, “Are we going to allow anybody but the three to still apply for that sidewalk permit? Because we contradict ourselves when we say they cannot take it off premises and the premises is the four walls around them. So are we going to allow them to still have a downtown four or five tables in that area? That's what I want to know.”

City Attorney Christina Wenko looks over documents during the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at City Hall.
City Attorney Christina Wenko looks over documents during the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at City Hall.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Wenko expressed some concern with the city's need to maintain consistency with the handling of the ordinance and that city staff were made aware of when and where alcohol is being dispensed outside of designated areas, adding that when a licensee applies for a special use permit, the application is very specific.

“... I don’t think we want to circumvent the sidewalk permit, because obviously Mr. Schwindt’s department needs to know when those things are happening. I guess I wouldn’t be in favor of saying, ‘Let’s do a blanket sidewalk approach,’ because again, we need to know when these things are happening for city right-of-way purposes,” she said, adding that she would bring the proposed ordinance changes back to the commission with suggested amendments pertaining to sidewalks.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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