Change opens up liquor sales to grocery stores in Coon Rapids

Contributing Writer

Class B off-sale liquor licenses in Coon Rapids will be expanded to include all alcohol, not just beer and wine, and there will be no limit to the number of licenses the city can issue.

The Coon Rapids City Council without dissent signed off on the proposal recommended by staff at a work session July 5 with final action on an ordinance incorporating the changes to take place in August.

At a work session in May, the council directed staff to craft new ordinance language for class B off-sale liquor licenses, but make no changes to the existing class A off-sale license regulations, which include a minimum floor space of 2,500 square feet, a 1-mile radius limit and no more than eight licenses.

Currently, the city can issue two class B intoxicating liquor licenses. They have a 2-mile radius limit, a minimum floor area of 50,000 square feet, must be secondary to an approved primary use and are limited to beer and wine sales. The Coon Rapids Costco store is the sole class B liquor license holder at this time.

According to City Clerk Joan Lenzmeier, while the city has received several inquiries, the current ordinance excludes grocery and other stores from selling liquor as a secondary use.

The new language would mean that class B off-sale license holders could sell full intoxicating liquor, while the minimum floor-area requirement of the primary use would be reduced from 50,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet, Lenzmeier said.

At the same time, the proposed ordinance exempts class B operations from the current minimum floor area requirement of 2,500 square feet for retailers who want a smaller liquor operation, she said.

But the ordinance does propose a maximum size for a class B license operation to be 5 percent of the total gross floor area of the primary use or 2,500 square feet whichever is larger, Lenzmeier said.

Using the 5 percent or 2,500 square feet would keep the size of the liquor store operations for larger retailers “closely in line” with existing class A liquor businesses to “level the playing field,” according to Lenzmeier.

In addition, given current market conditions, staff recommended no limit be placed on the number of class B off-sale licenses that can be issued by the city, Lenzmeier said.

Dropping the class B square foot minimum from 50,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet will accommodate the types of grocery retailers that have expressed interest in coming to Coon Rapids and allow existing businesses like Cub, Target and Walmart to apply for a class B liquor license if they wish, she said.

This language is an effort to strike a happy medium, said City Manager Matt Stemwedel. “It’s a little bit arbitrary, but it feels right,” he said.

It will also get the city closer to attracting a Trader Joe’s or a Fresh Thyme store, according to Mayor Jerry Koch.

“I like the way the ordinance is as proposed,” Koch said.

The proposed ordinance gives the city “flexibility going forward,” said Council Member Wade Demmer.

Council Member Bill Kiecker said he also liked the proposed ordinance.