Hard liquor to be allowed at Coon Rapids Civic Center events

Hard liquor will soon be served during events at the Coon Rapids Civic Center.

The Coon Rapids City Council Nov. 20 updated its policy for use of city center facilities to allow hard liquor to be used at civic center functions.

The civic center has weddings, banquets, parties and athletic group functions, among others, during the year, according to Finance Director Sharon Legg.

Right now, only beer and wine can be served at the civic center, Legg wrote in a memo to the council.

“In an effort to increase the use of the building, staff is recommending that licensed caterers be authorized to serve intoxicating liquor, including hard liquor, in addition to beer and wine,” she wrote.

“Staff does receive a number of requests for events where hard liquor would be served.”

Reviewing policies of other cities, there are a number that do allow hard liquor without issues, according to Legg.

Under state law, caterers that hold on-sale intoxicating liquor licenses can serve alcohol as long as it is an incidental part of a food service that serves prepared meals at a place other than the premises for which the holder’s on-sale intoxicating liquor license is issued, according to Legg.

An off-duty police officer currently has to be present when wine and beer are served at the civic center and that would not change with the addition of hard liquor, Legg wrote.

Nor is staff recommending an increase in rental fees, she wrote.

It was Legg’s recommendation that only up to three liquor vendors be allowed to work at the civic center that sparked council discussion.

Legg proposed that staff send out requests for proposal to caterers licensed to serve alcohol from which the three would be selected.

“In some cases, a food caterer has the liquor license allowing the food and beverage vendor to be the same, but sometimes they are separate vendors,” Legg wrote in her memo.

But Councilmembers Jerry Koch and Bruce Sanders balked at setting a limit of three.

It would limit the market for competition, Sanders said.

“I like making the room {civic center} more usable, but limiting it to three vendors would offset adding alcohol,” Koch said.

According to Legg, the limit was proposed so that staff would feel comfortable with the vendors that would be serving liquor.

She was concerned about the increased liability the city would incur under the state dram shop law if the number of vendors was open-ended and someone who under the influence at one of the events was involved in a tragic accident, Legg said.

Both Mayor Tim Howe and Councilmember Denise Klint liked the idea of some sort of limit on the number of liquor vendors, but thought it should be more than three.

“I think we should trust staff on this,” Klint said.

In the event, Koch and Sanders agreed that a limit of five liquor vendors would be selected from requests for proposals sent out by the city and that was part of the council action to approve the hard liquor policy change.

But Koch asked that staff consider other liquor vendors outside the five chosen if they come highly recommended.

There will continue to be no limits on the number of licensed caterers that can work events at the civic center, according to Legg.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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