Liquor Control Board - March 28, 2018 Minutes
LIQUOR CONTROL COMMITTEE MEETING
Present: Commissioner Piepkorn, Police Chief Dave Todd, City Auditor Sprague, Grant Larson, Environmental Health,
Absent: Commissioner Gehrig
Others Present: Asst. City Attorney Nancy Morris; Rick Carik, Rick’s; Dustin Mitzel, Happy Harry’s; Carol & Brad Schlossman, Arlette Preston, Downtown Neighborhood Assn; Greg & Josi Danz, Zambroz; Sally Loeffler, Beyond Running; Rick Nymark; Dave Glessner; Doug Restemeyer, D S Beverages; Jim Swanick, Empire; Dave Schlossman; Dave Erickson, Bulldog Tap; Other members of the media, concerned citizens and other members of the industry.
Meeting was called to order at 1:30 P.M.
1. Commissioner Piepkorn called the meeting to order and asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of February 21, 2018. There were no additions or corrections to the minutes of February 21, 2018. Moved by Larson, seconded by Todd to approve the minutes of the February 21, 2018 meeting of the Liquor Control Board all voted in favor, motion passed unanimously.
Sprague reviewed the eight items listed in 25-1508 C used in determining the appropriateness of a location for a liquor license. Including convenience of police regulation, proximity to other businesses selling alcohol, proximity to schools and churches, protests of neighboring property, zoning, interference with neighboring properties, suitability of the premise and number of licenses in existence.
2. A. The first application to be considered today is for the transfer of a Class “B” alcoholic beverage license from Main Liquors, Inc. d/b/a Main Liquors located at 4000 Main Ave to Dakota Liquors LLC d/b/a Main Liquors to be located at 4000 Main Ave.
There were no questions or comments regarding this application.
Moved by Sprague, seconded by Larson approve the transfer of a Class “B” alcoholic beverage license from Main Liquors, Inc. d/b/a Main Liquors located at 4000 Main Ave to Dakota Liquors LLC d/b/a Main Liquors to be located at 4000 Main Ave, all voted in favor, motion passed unanimously.
B. The second application to be considered today is for the transfer of a Class “FA-RZ” alcoholic beverage license from Mosaic Foods d/b/a Mezzaluna located at 309 Roberts to Snelling Hospitality LLC d/b/a Mezzaluna to be located at 309 Roberts.
There were no questions or comments regarding this application.
Moved by Larson, seconded by Todd approve the transfer of a Class “FA-RZ” alcoholic beverage license from Mosaic Foods d/b/a Mezzaluna located at 309 Roberts to Snelling Hospitality LLC d/b/a Mezzaluna to be located at 309 Roberts, all voted in favor, motion passed unanimously.
C. The third application to be considered today is for the transfer of a Class “FA” alcoholic beverage license from B.A.B. 32nd Ave S LLC d/b/a Moe’s Southwest Grill located at 2511 Kirsten Lane Suite 101 to HRP Fargo LLC d/b/a The Tavern Grill to be located at 3233 45th Street South.
There were no questions or comments regarding this application.
Moved by Larson, seconded by Todd approve the transfer of a Class “FA” alcoholic beverage license from B.A.B. 32nd Ave S LLC d/b/a Moe’s Southwest Grill located at 2511 Kirsten Lane Suite 101 to HRP Fargo LLC d/b/a The Tavern Grill to be located at 3233 45th Street South, all voted in favor, motion passed unanimously.
D. The fourth application to be considered today is for the transfer of a Class “A” alcoholic beverage license from Classic Foods, LTD d/b/a Ground Round located at 2902 13th Ave S to FSB Associates LLC d/b/a Cowboy Jack’s to be located at 506 Broadway.
Sprague said Cowboy Jacks is requesting a transfer of a Class “A” license, the packets have been updated with a map showing locations of various liquor licenses in the downtown area, a floor plan of the business, a proposed menu from Cowboy Jacks, an alcohol density study and various letters of support and opposition. Cowboy Jacks is a franchise and the background shows no concerns. The concerns come down to the location of the business. Piepkorn commented that one concern is there would be 3 Class “A” licenses in one block, the comments he’s received people are not concerned with a bar/restaurant the concern is the class of license.
Carol Schlossman from the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), they support the Downtown Master Plan. We are here today to talk about license density, to many liquor establishments can threaten the health and investment in the downtown. The DNA studied three commercial district, downtown, 13th Avenue South and 45th Street South. Even though the 13th Ave and 45th St districts are much larger in geographic size, the downtown has more liquor establishments. Not only were number of licenses reviewed but also the type of license. What is the negative tipping point, when is it too much? There has been a huge investment in downtown in the last 15 years, let’s not ruin it with over density. Research shows areas with the largest concentration of liquor licenses often are in the poorest neighborhoods; downtown is a poor area. We have seen the negative drunken and criminal behavior that is spilling out into our neighborhood. There have been 378 calls for service in the last 9 months. Before living downtown, she had never called for assistance, now she has called 9 times. Every day we see pushing, shoving and foul language that can intimidate someone walking on the sidewalk. We encourage the Liquor Board to develop a best practice considering density in the downtown, also please consider the current negative behaviors that are not being addressed. The DNA urges a denial on this application.
Josi Danz, Zambroz gave the Liquor Board a list of signatures of downtown property owners who are opposed to this transfer. She lives and works downtown for 27 years. She has had to make many calls for service for drunk and disorderly conduct. She has witnessed the growth of downtown, it used to be mostly bars, and it was not an area of pride or a destination, people were afraid to go downtown. Now it is the community front porch, it is the entertainment district in Fargo. The recently completed Downtown Master Plan stressing a family friendly environment increased housing and more green space and a balance of different businesses all of which lead to greater economic stability. We are concerned about maintaining balance with the future growth of new businesses in downtown. Not all liquor license operate the same, we need to carefully consider how the business operates and want contributions it will make to downtown. The area this business is requesting to locate is already an area the Police Department expends many of their limited resources. Her research shows this business model operates as a nightclub and will further stress the PD’s limited resources. Their business model is focused on drinking. We request that you deny this request and develop a policy that considers density and operations before you allow more licenses in the downtown.
Sally Loeffler, Beyond Running/Outermost Layer, the businesses are located between the Empire and the Bismarck and next to the proposed location. Initially, she had reservations about another bar entering block; certainly, another establishment operating in a similar manner would cause additional problems. She fears we may be having the wrong discussion; we may be talking about issues not related to a family friendly option to join the North end of Broadway. Her research indicates Cowboy Jacks does not operate the type of businesses that are currently exists in the neighborhood. The business does focus on family friendly atmosphere; she listed examples from her research. She failed to find outrageous drink discounting. She understands there will be late night clientele and they can accommodate that. She felt it would be unfair to assume that Cowboy Jacks will draw the customers with drinking issues. They will have to follow franchise guidelines and rules. She understands the limitations of a liquor license and some licenses requiring reporting of sales and why someone might not want to report their sales. She expressed concern about safety with the applicant and she believes he has the best intentions. With two nearby businesses closing, she would welcome a family friendly business. She would encourage the committee to approve the license transfer.
Piepkorn asked Sprague to explain how minors can be in a Class “A” liquor license business. Sprague indicated that there is often confusion between the class of liquor license and what is allowed. He continued that years ago, the only license available was a Class “A”, so businesses like Red Lobster have a Class “A” license and certainly no one would have concerns about minors in Red Lobster. The Class “A” licenses do not require food sales, however, there are no restrictions that say the Class “A” license cannot serve food. When you look at the general alcohol provisions of North Dakota Century Code and Fargo Municipal Code, we start with if you are under 21 you cannot be where alcohol is served. Then the exceptions come into play. The first exception is; if you are in a restaurant where food sales exceed alcohol sales and the alcohol is mixed in a separate area you can remain in the restaurant even though you may be under 21. The second exception is if you are in a restaurant accompanied by your parents or guardian you may remain where the alcohol is regardless is the food sales exceed alcohol sales or where the drinks are mixed or poured. Piepkorn said with this restaurant food sales would not exceed alcohol but food sales will be significant. Sprague indicated that conversations with the applicant revealed he was not assured his food sales will exceed alcohol sales therefore he is hesitant to apply for an “FA”, he does not want to be bound by the 50%, what would happen to his business if he didn’t reach the 50%. In the past in the downtown, we have seen restaurants really well supported. We’ve seen Wurst, JL Beer, Vinyl Taco all started with licenses that didn’t require food sales and switch to licenses that do require food sales. Piepkorn indicated he feels the neighbors would be more supportive if the license required 50% food sales.
Gregg Danz, Zambroz, stated he has been in restaurants where after a certain hour minors are no longer allowed. Sprague responded that is a management decision, if minors are not allowed, if the business is not a restaurant, then minors would never be allowed. Danz continued by asking about the floor plan of the proposed restaurant, he stated his research showed an emphasis on alcohol, his concern is good intentions are one thing but if the reality is that it ends up being a nightclub we can’t go back. He urged the committee to take a hard look at the license and get clarity on how they would run a Class “A” establishment. Josi Danz emphasized the main concern is the location, she also was told the minors would not be allowed after 2 p.m.
Assistant City Attorney Morris stepped forward to clarify that minors are allowed in a restaurant, if food sales do not exceed alcohol sales and if the pour area is not separate, their parents must accompany them.
Trevor Hill said he had concerns about walking downtown because of the liquor issues but would favor a new establishment that might bring in a better set of customers to the area especially one that is open past 5 p.m. Carol Schlossman indicated she had concerns about parking and she heard there was a 2 p.m. time limit for minors.
Jeremy Horst is a realtor that has tried very hard to lease that space for over a year now. He visited with office, retail and commercial and the feedback was about the foot traffic north of the tracks. He is hopeful that more traffic will push out some of the trouble people. Cowboy Jacks looked at a number of properties in downtown Fargo and in the end they felt this was a good location.
Chief Todd stated he does have two establishments that are pushing them to their limits. Talking about adding a third is a concern. What it tells him is they may need to hold the existing businesses more accountable for what is happening not only inside but outside around their businesses. The Downtown Master Plan should have a balance of businesses, destination and neighborhood. Not all businesses are following the plan to have that balance. Are we focusing on destination and ignoring the other two? To have a neighborhood we need to have more residence and we are getting out of balance. We need restaurant and bars but we need to have balance. Granted empty storefronts are not as safe, full storefronts make safer neighborhoods. The applicant is a bit of a victim of the two existing establishments, he would probably be approving the application if we didn’t have the problems we are facing currently. Chief Todd indicated if this were an FA he would approve the transfer.
Austin Morris, property owner, he feels the narrative today has painted the concept in colors that are untrue. He has difficulty finding family friendly restaurant in downtown Fargo. Cowboy Jacks is a restaurant franchise with over 100 menu items, they will be utilizing the entire building as well as adding on to the business. He questioned the call volume of a similar type business instead of comparing to a bar. He questioned what other cities the size of Fargo are doing with density of restaurants/bars. Downtown needs more housing because we are an event space; we draw from South Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead. He is recommending support.
Commissioner Piepkorn said this could have a positive effect on the establishments by introducing a different clientele, this could draw more foot traffic to the area of Broadway and reduce problem area. Chief Todd said the existing 2 neighbors should work to clean up their establishments before we introduce another “A” license. Todd said he can’t support this type license until the area gets cleaned up. Piepkorn replied that isn’t fair to punish the applicant because of someone else’s behavior.
Arlette Preston challenges the owner to apply for an “FA”, and the concerns of the neighborhood would disappear.
Dave Erickson, Cowboy Jacks, explained why the “FA” license is not a good option for this business at this time, beer and especially craft beer at this time has thrown the food ratio off balance. A craft beer can sell for as much or more than a burger making it difficult to stay in balance. Most of the other Cowboy Jacks are exceeding the 50% but it may get close and what would happen to his investment if he went under the 50%. An “FA” license would be half the investment. He indicated they would probably not allow minors in after 10 p.m.
Sprague commented the discussion on expensive drinks and inexpensive food has been around for some time now. He also said he believes Cowboy Jacks is making a long-term investment, the applicant is going to be the franchisee for all of North Dakota, so it is unlikely that in a year he quits selling food and becomes just a street bar. Finally, Sprague asked if the applicant had reached out to the neighbors and if so what their response was. Erickson said he used social media to try to set up a meeting but was unsuccessful. Sprague commented that sometimes differences could be worked out through open communication. Finally, he said some of the people causing problems are not coming out of a bar; they are just passing through the area and causing issues.
Mr. Danz commented he feels another “A” license would just increase the problems with beer crawls and people walking around. He said he has problems renting his apartments to anyone not in their 20s because of the noise and disorderly conduct caused by the bars. Carol Schlossman asked how much the City wants to invest of taxpayer dollars to police the downtown.
Ben Nolan, Enclave Development, works in the Case building, he constantly deals with impaired people and the closest liquor establishment is a half mile away. There is a problem with drinking; people are going to find the alcohol wherever it is. We should focus on drinking as whole and not individual locations. Josi Danz said she feels the crowd will be like that of the OB and will cause additional problems. Arlette Preston said she has been more frightened by young people and negative behavior than with the homeless population.
Melissa Rademacher, DCP, said she welcomes new businesses to the downtown and encourages development. Her research on the franchise shows they are held accountable, we need to not be swayed by gossip and focus on the facts. We need to hold the bars and restaurants accountable for overserving, what are the consequences for them. Brian Grammar, from Moorhead indicated they would love to have this franchise come to Moorhead.
Brian from Cowboy Jacks, said his business does not want to be a burden to the community. They have plans for well-lit buildings and would be willing to help police monitor their area to avoid conflicts with patron. He emphasized that Cowboy Jacks is not a nightclub and many locations do exceed the 50% food requirement. He spoke about their business and the involvement with communities and neighborhoods.
Piepkorn questioned the parking lot and was told the plans are still being finalized. Those plans should include the security cameras or anything else that will help with the safety of the area.
Larson acknowledged that alcohol abuse is a city wide issue and this Board should consider a main objective to make decisions based on public safety for the neighborhood. Sprague commented we need to clearly define what the saturation limit is and the parameters. It would not be fair to penalize this establishment and say no before those parameters are defined.
Moved by Sprague, seconded by Piepkorn to approve the transfer of a Class “A” alcoholic beverage license from Classic Foods, LTD d/b/a Ground Round located at 2902 13th Ave S to FSB Associates LLC d/b/a Cowboy Jack’s to be located at 506 Broadway.
Voting in favor Piepkorn and Sprague; voting against Todd and Larson. The tie vote will be forwarded to the City Commission at the April 9 meeting. Chief Todd commented he would vote for approval if this was an “FA” license, Larson agreed.
3. Due to Commission Gehrig’s absence, it was decided to continue the discussion about hiring an outside consultant for advice on our liquor ordinances.
4. Sprague commented on the mandatory meeting penalty. The proposed ordinance would provide that all licensees are required to attend the mandatory meeting; you can also send a representative or manager. Failure to attend one of the meetings will result in a penalty of $500 and the licensee must still attend at a liquor board meeting where the presentation will be repeated. Failure to attend will result in a second $500 penalty and the licensee will have to complete an on line presentation and test. If the licensee fails to attend the meetings or complete the on line presentation their license would not be renewed on June 30.
Moved by Todd, seconded by Larson to direct City Attorney to prepare ordinance change and forward to the City Commission. All voted in favor.
There being no further business to come before the Liquor Control Board, the meeting was adjourned at 3:03 p.m. The next regular meeting will be held Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. in the City Commission Room.