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Published September 03, 2012, 11:30 PM

Fargo considers restructuring liquor licenses

FARGO – The city’s complicated web of liquor licenses could get even more complex because of a desire by some area restaurant owners to offer more live entertainment in their establishments.

FARGO – The city’s complicated web of liquor licenses could get even more complex because of a desire by some area restaurant owners to offer more live entertainment in their establishments.

Fargo officials are studying how the city’s liquor licenses might be restructured to meet the request, but some are wary of relaxing the regulations due to public safety concerns.

“In our minds, they need to be a restaurant first, and then we started to have conversations about whether it’s appropriate to have bands in restaurants,” Fargo Auditor Steve Sprague said.

The city’s liquor license structure differentiates bars from restaurants that serve alcohol.

An “FA” liquor license applies to most restaurants that serve alcohol. The license requires the business to take in at least 50 percent of its sales from food.

A restaurant must apply for a separate “live entertainment license” in order to have amplified or live music, beyond the subtle background music that’s typical of most establishments.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes, a member of the city’s Liquor Control Board, said last month he’s concerned that calls for police response could increase if more live entertainment were allowed in restaurants.

“Today it is not a problem, but a potential problem exists,” Ternes said at the August Liquor Control Board meeting when the debate arose again. “There are things you can do in a bar that should not happen in a restaurant.”

“It is clear as of today, there are more calls for service in bars than restaurants,” Ternes said. “If we allow restaurants to act like bars, the possibility exists that calls for service in restaurants could increase.”

However, restaurant owners – from establishments such as Tailgators, JT Cigarro’s, Lucky 13 and Rhombus Guys – urged the city to clarify its rules on live entertainment, while also allowing businesses the freedom to dictate how they operate.

“It’s easier to step in and prevent it from happening rather than to allow it to happen and scale it back,” Sprague said. “We feel like it’s better to address it now.”

But Sprague said the debate likely won’t be settled until later this fall.

“We’ve kind of gone back and forth with it,” he said. “It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen, but we need to get to the point where we’re putting it behind us.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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