Liquor license changes approved in Coon Rapids

Contributing Writer

Changes to class B off-sale liquor license regulations were approved by the Coon Rapids City Council Aug. 2, but not without opposition.

An ordinance adopting new language was approved on a 4-2 vote with Council Members Jennifer Geisler and Brad Johnson opposed and Council Member Wade Demmer absent from the meeting.

According to City Clerk Joan Lenzmeier, the ordinance will be published in the Aug. 11 issue of the UnionHerald, the city’s legal newspaper, and go into effect 15 days later on Aug. 26.

At a council work session July 5, staff was directed to draft an ordinance to expand class B liquor licenses, which would be secondary to the primary use and with a separate entrance, to include all alcohol, not just beer and wine, reduce the maximum square footage from 50,000 to 25,000, set 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, remove the radius limit and place no limit on the number of licenses issued.

Under the current regulations, there is a limit of two licenses, one of which has been issued to Costco.

But the ordinance adopted by the council Aug. 2 differed from the measure introduced by the council at its July 18 meeting on a 5-1 vote with Johnson opposed and Geisler absent.

Staff recommended one change, inserting the word “principal” for “primary” use.

But Council Member Brad Johnson wanted more discussion on the ordinance as a whole and involvement from class A off-sale liquor license owners, who were not invited to the last two work sessions and who would be significantly impacted, he said.

The ordinance makes 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, all of which have been issued.

Mayor Jerry Koch suggested altering wording of the ordinance from “retail” to “grocery,” since that is the type of business the city is trying to attract with the class B changes.

“We want an ordinance to bring in grocery stores that sell liquor, but we don’t want to open it up to unintended consequences,” Koch said.

But City Manager Matt Stemwedel said narrowing the scope of the ordinance to grocery stores would make the city’s task of measuring the square footage minimum for the liquor store secondary use difficult.

And City Attorney David Brodie said the city would have to define what constituted groceries.

Making a motion to adopt the ordinance as proposed with the staff-recommended wording change, Council Member Jennifer Geisler said this was an opportunity for the city in a changing business climate to attract different types of businesses.

But there was no second to the motion.

Council Member Steve Wells objected to dropping the maximum square footage from 50,000 to 25,000, he said.

“That’s too low a threshold,” Wells said.

Koch said he was fine with 50,000 square feet.

But Geisler said that would eliminate “a lot of unique types of businesses.”

“We need to do something,” said Koch, who made the motion, which passed 4-2, to adopt the ordinance with just one change, other than the staff recommendation, keeping the 50,000 square foot maximum for the “retail” store.