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WF considering changes to liquor licenses

Liquor licenses may soon be more expensive in West Fargo, but the process of getting one may be quicker and businesses may have more choices in license types.

City Attorney John Shockley said he can't remember the city making updates to its liquor license since at least 2004.

Shockley proposed that the City Commission consider changes, including the creation of a liquor board to regulate licensing, at its Monday, Dec. 3.

"We recognize this changes a lot for our businesses, both restaurants and bars," Shockley said. "We wanted to give them an opportunity to provide feedback."

Shockley suggested the city create a liquor control board composed of three members: the police chief, city administrator and one city commissioner. The board would have the authority to review, approve, deny and revoke licenses; it could also investigate complaints and applications and suspend licenses or impose fines. The board would also take care of unpaid fees and fines of businesses. The smaller board could meet faster than the regular City Commission.

"Instead of meeting every other week, we could call special meeting of this three-member board quickly," Shockley said.

Decisions of the board can be appealed to City Commission.

A new liquor license category would allow businesses to serve a beer or glass of wine for a special event, such as a boutique that wants to serve wine to clients while they are getting a haircut or service.

Shockley said some businesses are currently doing this and adding the special license would allow the city to regulate these types of businesses.

"Honestly, I'd like to get input from the businesses," Commissioner Mike Simmons said.

Economic Development Director Matt Marshall said the city has had requests from businesses over the years who wanted to serve beer to wine for a one-time event, such as an evening of customer appreciation.

"Under our current ordinance, without a special events permit that is illegal, they'd have to find a bar and jump through hoops to do that," Marshall said.

Special events permits would be limited to 10 per year and to 48 hours. The current ordinance does not limit the number of events.

There have been some businesses that have used the special events permit many times a year to avoid getting a regular liquor license, Marshall said.

Shockley said the ordinance would be updated to clarify the requirement liquor be served from a separate room. The updated requirement would allow a restaurant to have a bar area located where minors might walk by, but they could not sit at the bar.

The ordinance changes would also slightly raise the price of full liquor licenses.

"It's not anywhere near what Fargo charges," Shockley said.

Shockley said city officials plan to meet with businesses throughout December. The ordinance could then be changed before returning to the City Commission on Jan. 7.

"What we're really looking for is some direction," Shockley said. "At this point, I think we've flagged up the issues we need input on. It's not by any means set in stone. I think we know what the problem is, we're just trying to find what the solution is."

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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