City moves to market new liquor licenses

The Minot City Council is moving forward with plans to sell four additional liquor licenses that are available based on the city’s population growth. The city currently has 28 retail liquor licenses in operation. That number would go to 32.

The council was divided on whether to sell the licenses or set up a committee to study the process, which could be impacted by other changes the council might want to make in the city’s liquor ordinances.

For instance, council member Stephan Podrygula questioned the rationale for arbitrarily limiting the number of liquor licenses based on population, rather than letting the free market reign.

“We don’t limit the number of muffler shops or psychologists’ offices or whatever. Why do we limit the number of liquor establishments?” he said.

Mayor Shaun Sipma said current license holders paid to obtain those licenses and hold them as part of their investments in their businesses. Eliminating limits would devalue those investments.

The five license transfers that occurred since 2017 have ranged in price from $75,000 to $190,000, according to information from the city.

During discussion on liquor ordinance revisions in 2016, license holders suggested litigation would result if their property is devalued from the removal of restrictions, Sipma said.

Council member Carrie Evans called for a committee to study the issuance of the additional licenses and present the council with a recommendation. Council member Paul Pitner agreed a more thorough look into the process is needed, rather than simply continuing to do things as they have been done in the past.

Sipma said he prefers to move forward with the four licenses, knowing that buyer interest exists. Introducing four more licenses also dilutes the liquidity of existing licenses, creating more of an opportunity to eliminate a license cap at a future time, he said.

“I’m just not going to vote for something that is going to penalize 28 business owners in Minot that have invested serious dollars into their businesses,” council member Tom Ross said. “We’ve got four that we can approve and get out on the street today, and then if we want to change a liquor license or a liquor ordinance, let’s do that. But right now, I’m all for protecting the businesses that have already invested in the city of Minot.”

“The fact that we listen to the 28 retail liquor license holders,” Pitner said, “and we put their needs and desires and wants and benefit over the entire community is, to me, the crux of this issue.”

The motion to form a committee failed 3-4, with support from Evans, Pitner and Podrygula. The motion to move ahead with sale of the licenses then carried 4-3.


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