Mandan News

Mandan wants to lift liquor license limits

The Mandan City Commission previously approved the first reading of an ordinance that lifts limits on all liquor license classes. This would flip the city commission decision 18 months ago to allow new licenses based on how many new households there were. Before that the city issued liquor licenses by gauging the 10-year census.

With a final approval on Oct. 15, the ordinance will eliminate the competitive bidding process for liquor licenses in Mandan unless the city commission decides that a bid is needed. The new ordinance specifies that the city may issue “an unlimited number of alcohol licenses in any class.” City Commissioner Dot Frank said most other liquor licenses had been unlimited before in the city, but the new ordinance affects on and off liquor establishments, off-sale beer and wine, and off-sale beer and liquor licenses.
The ordinance also requires that applicants of Class A liquor licenses (on and off sales) have buildings with a seating capacity of at least 30 people.

In the draft ordinance, the city would require a minimum issuance fee for certain types of liquor licenses.

“What happened is we’ve seen unprecedented growth,” said Frank. She said the commission decided 18 months ago to add new licenses for every 500 households it permitted on an annual basis. This May, the city came up just shy of the 500 household units for the annual count, but the city met that quota a few weeks later. “We determined it was not the best way to take measurements,” Frank said.

City Administrator Jim Neubauer showed commissioners a draft proposal on what minimum issuance fees would be for liquor licenses. Annual renewal fees for the licenses would still be required to still keep the liquor licenses current, he said. He proposed that an issuance fee for a Class A general on/off beer and liquor license have a one-time issuance fee of at least $60,000. A Class D liquor license of off sale beer and liquor would require at least an $80,000 issuance fee.

Commissioners asked he raise the minimum issuance fee for an off-sale beer and wine D-1 liquor license from $35,000 to $40,000 – what the last D-1 liquor license went for in a bid. After the one-time issuance fees, all liquor licenses would still have to pay annual renewal fees, according to Neubauer. The fee proposals will come back to commissioners Oct. 15.

“There won’t be a liquor establishment on every corner,”Frank said. “Even with unlimited liquor licenses, the applications must still be approved by the city commission.” She said the one-time issuance fees would limit how many people apply for liquor licenses.
Neubauer said every liquor license applicant must still go through a background check from the police chief and must meet zoning requirements. “They can’t be placed in residential neighborhoods,” he said. He said licenses also will be market-driven. If there are too many licenses, it can saturate the market and not everyone can make a living off that liquor license.

The ordinance gives commissioners the discretion to determine that a significant number of licenses have been issued and it may refuse any future liquor licenses in certain classes.

By LeAnn Eckroth, Lee News