Committee begins rewrite on alcohol license caps

Paul Pitner

A city committee on Monday began working with a consulting attorney tasked with helping draft ordinance language to move the City of Minot away from caps on the number of retail liquor licenses.

The Alcohol Ordinance Review and Rewrite Committee had requested and received approval from the Minot City Council to hire a consultant for assistance in rewriting the portion of the ordinance related to caps. Council members indicated they possibly could support lifting restrictions on the number of licenses, which gave the committee some confidence to continue moving in that direction.

Minot is one of the last larger cities in North Dakota to eliminate license caps. The current ordinance limits a retail liquor license to no more than one per 1,500 population.

The concern of the committee in eliminating caps relates to the impact that action would have on the market value currently placed on licenses because of their limited availability. Many license holders have paid many thousands of dollars to obtain their licenses and consider it part of their businesses’ values.

“The goals and the mission of this committee from the beginning has been to do what’s best for the city of Minot, the consumer and citizens. But when it comes to the cap specifically, we have all felt there needs to be some sort of maintaining the value of these licenses that they have invested in,” committee chairman and council member Paul Pitner said.

Tom Ross

Committee members want to research whether to allow existing license owners a one-time license transfer and whether to afford license holders the opportunity to be notified of new applicants so those interested can make a sale offer. If no sale is negotiated within a specified time, the applicant could purchase a new license from the city. Another option contemplated to preserve the value of existing licenses is to give holders the exclusive authority to host gaming for a defined number of years.

The committee also plans to consider the price to be set for a new license and will be looking at potential changes in the city’s annual licensing fees.

The committee met remotely with Katie Schmidt of West Fargo, an attorney with Ohnstad Twichell who will be assisting with the ordinance rewrite.

Mayor Tom Ross noted the ordinance draft developed by the committee will be only a recommendation. The draft will go to the city council for a final vote, and there will be meetings at which license holders and others will have input.

“It has to go through two readings,” Ross said of any proposed ordinance. “So there’s going to be plenty of opportunity to provide feedback.”

Ross added citizens don’t need to wait, either, because committee members welcome feedback and contact by citizens at any time.

“We’re looking for that kind of input,” he said.


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