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Liquor license issue uncorked at council meeting

"Class B" or not "Class B," that was the question at Monday's New Richmond City Council meeting.

Council members walked through a series of liquor license approvals during their two-hour meeting.

It was anything but smooth sailing for some applicants, as city officials tried to explain what businesses qualified for which kind of license.

City Clerk Joe Bjelland explained that the city has a limited number of "Class A" licenses that are typically reserved for liquor stores that sell beer, wine and other spirits.

"Class B" licenses allow establishments to sell liquor on the premesis and a limited amount of off-sale liquor. The city has no additional "Class B" licenses available for new establishments.

Class "B" beer licenses allow a business to sell only beer, both for consumption at the establishment and for off-sale.

"Class C" wine licenses allow for sales of just wine at an establishment.

At Monday's meeting, the council approved a Class "B" beer license and "Class C" wine license for Ava's Restaurant, which is set to open later this month.

But the eventual approval was not without its tense moments, as Mayor David Schnitzler was met with silence when he asked for a motion on the matter.

Jerry Brown, president of the New Richmond Area Economic Development Corporation, eventually spoke in an effort to convince the council that the approval was a good idea. Brown worked with the restaurant developers to bring them to the city.

"I think they are an asset to the community," he said. "It's a quality operation and they've done good things."

The council approved the application 5-1, with alderman Fred Horne casting the lone no vote.

Kwik Trip in New Richmond was also on the agenda in its effort to seek a Class "B" beer license. The convenience store hopes to build a new $3 million facility on the south edge of town, and included in those plans is a separate business that will sell beer to customers.

A motion, made by council member Roberta Dale-Wozniak, to approve the license died for a lack of a second.

Dwayne Maier, manager of the Kwik Trip in New Richmond, said he didn't understand why his request has been treated differently from other recently approved applications. He noted that Beaches Steak House received a license last month without any debate.

"I don't understand what the difference is," Maier said.

If an eating establishment is viewed more positively, Maier said he would set up tables inside and sell some food.

Bjelland said off-sale establishments should actually be applying for a "Class A" license, which means people will take the alcohol "away" and not drink it on the premesis.

But because the city has a limit on "Class A" licenses, Bjelland said New Richmond uses the Class "B" beer license to meet business requests.

Lyle Kellaher, owner of Kellaher's Bar, said if the city begins allowing Class "B" licenses at convenience stores and other businesses, many applications will be received.

"You're kind of opening a Pandora's box," he said. "It's kind of a judgment call on your part."

Mary Beth McCabe, owner of McCabe's Shamrock Club, agreed.

"Everyone is going to ask for one," she said. "I think it's a bad precedence to set."

If more licenses are available, she added, it will result in stiff competition for locally owned bars.

"There are only so many people drinking alcohol in town," Kellaher added. "You can either cut the cake five ways or 10 ways or whatever."

Kwik Trip district supervisor Terry Hanley said the company establishes tight security when selling liquor.

In the case of many stores, such as a new one in Menomonie, Hanley said liquor sales don't impact business at the bars.

McCabe disagreed. "It's not true that it hasn't affected business in Menomonie."

Dale-Wozniak made a second motion to approve the license for Kwik Trip, but again it died for lack of a second.

Afterward, as motions were made to approve liquor license renewals for all establishments in the city, Dale-Wozniak voted no. Council member Fred Horne voted no on an application by Ava's Restaurant for a "Class C" wine license.