Council’s denial leaves events dry

Submitted Photo An artist paints a scene near the curb of a street in Billings, Montana, in this photo from the Billings Industrial Revitalization District. See sidebar article.

An alcohol supplier was left scrambling after the Minot City Council denied the company the liquor license transfer necessary to accommodate its upcoming event bookings.

The council determined Duckpond Ventures’ business model didn’t fit within its existing alcohol licensing ordinance, much to its own frustration as well as the company’s.

Duckpond Ventures sought to transfer the retail liquor license of Dad’s/Saul’s from the former bar to a location within the Regency Event Center in downtown Minot to fulfill exclusive rights to provide alcohol for events. However, city staff and the police department recommended denial because the company’s proposed location with a storage closet, cooler and counter aren’t a licensable premise.

“We’ve spent a number of hours on this issue, trying to find if it does fit into any of the license types we have,” Police Chief John Klug said. “I think we can get to a point where we can find a license type that fits this model of business. But right now, we’re trying to take a model of business and put it into a license type.”

The council agreed to examine its ordinances and look into changes necessary to address Duckpond Ventures’ situation and other types of operations that might not currently fit. The city already has reached out to a Grand Forks law firm that worked through similar matters with that city in developing a workable ordinance for an events-focused alcohol licensee.

In the meantime, though, it leaves Duckpond Ventures owner Jon Lakoduk without a license for his first event on Saturday. Lakoduk said his option is to beg another licensed operation to lend its license. Without a premises, Duckpond Ventures is not considered to have an active license from the city or state.

“All we’re asking to do is help people celebrate events in their lives or private parties. We are not trying to skirt the law or serve people who are under 21,” said Lakoduk, who disagreed with the city’s restrictive interpretation of its ordinance. He cited another business in the city that is allowed to operate somewhat out of the scope of its license in an attempt to make its business model fit. Klug said that allegation will be investigated.

Klug said Duckpond Ventures’ dilemma comes from not working with an attorney’s assistance with licensing and submitting an application on a tight deadline.

“He didn’t even file a transfer until this year, and now we’re trying to rush to get his event approved. I don’t think that’s the way we should be doing business. His mistake is not our mistake. He thought it was going to get transferred, and that’s not our emergency,” Klug said.

Council members considered whether some type of temporary or conditional license might be feasible but did not go that route.

“I agree with Chief Klug that we don’t want to rush through things,” council member Carrie Evans said. But she added, “We have to fix this. There’s a problem in the city for these kinds of situations where there’s not an appropriate license. Our ordinances are not malleable right now to accommodate requests like Duckpond is asking. And so I think it’s incumbent upon us when we become aware of these deficiencies in our ordinance to fix it.”

“Obviously, our ordinance does not fit reality,” council member Stephan Podrygula said. “I don’t like legislating, in a sense, on an ad hoc basis. On the other hand, it seems like we are asking an individual to bear the burden of complexity and lack of flexibility in our ordinance. It seems like a bureaucratic mess, and it seems like we are having him be the fall guy for it.”

Podrygula cast the only vote against denying the license transfer.

The council directed staff to present recommendations for liquor ordinance revisions at its April 17 meeting.

“This is our launching point to move things forward,” council member Paul Pitner said. “I want to be open for business. I want to help people get to a positive solution. … This is an opportunity for us. The attention and the spotlight have been put on an issue. Let’s solve it.”


Project to bring art to downtown intersection

A project that will bring more art to downtown was endorsed by the Minot City Council Monday.

The city has been adding bump-outs at some downtown intersections. Last year, the city installed painted bump-outs at the intersection of E. Central Avenue and First Street East as a pedestrian safety measure.

The Engineering Department sought the council’s blessing to engage the Minot Council of the Arts in creating an arts-in-the-right-of -way project, yet to be approved by the state Department of Transportation.

A similar project has been installed in Bismarck, and street art also is being used around the country to enhance roadways and pedestrian crossings.

In other business, the council approved engaging a designer to develop a detailed plan and costs for placemaking, including pocket parks, a 13-acre riverside park and public campground close to downtown. The city received $55,350 from the Economic Development Administration through the N.D. Department of Commerce for placemaking planning.


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