WF creates liquor control board, revamps liquor laws

The city of West Fargo has voted to approve a five-member liquor control board that will review, approve or deny on- and off-sale liquor license applications. Forum file photo
The city of West Fargo has voted to approve a five-member liquor control board that will review, approve or deny on- and off-sale liquor license applications. Forum file photo

WEST FARGO — A five-member liquor control board will now help approve, deny and regulate liquor licenses in the city of West Fargo.

On Monday, March 18, the City Commission approved the first reading of a new ordinance that would create a liquor control board that will include the city administrator, police chief, code enforcement official and two commissioners to review, approve or deny applications.

The board will be allowed to impose fines on anyone found to be violating license rules. Applicants can appeal decisions by the liquor control board to the City Commission within 14 days.

The City Commission could have decided to appoint two community members to the board, but City Attorney Jon Shockley said current license owners were concerned that competitors could have a say in license approval.

The new ordinance also created a new liquor license category to allow businesses to serve a beer or a glass of wine for a special event, such as a boutique that wants to serve wine to clients while they are getting a haircut or service. The business will have to pay for the license and have the correct insurance and server training, City Administrator Tina Fisk said. If the event is a rare occasion, businesses can apply for a special event permit, which will be limited to 10 per year.

While fees for liquor licenses will increase, Commissioner Mark Simmons said the city still charges much less for liquor licenses than Fargo. Shockley said the city is raising fees to help cover the cost of investigations and enforcement.

“Because they had not gone up in so many years, the fee was not covering those costs,” Shockley said.

Fisk said the city likely would not limit the number of licenses like Fargo does, because once there is a limit, the licenses become a commodity and owners attempt to buy and sell the licenses.

Town Hall Bar owner Greg Peterson said the license fees appear to double from what they are now. For example, the offsale license will go from $1,500 to $3,000. However, Fisk said some licenses will no longer have additional fees they had before so the costs would not necessarily double.

“The full on- and off-sale liquor license when you add in all the components used to be $2,600,” Fisk said. “You don’t have to get all the separate ones anymore. So the cost is going from $2,600 to $3,000”

The revamped city rules also clarify the application process and added a required background investigation by the police department of an applicant, manager, key personnel and owner. Violation of the liquor laws will now be considered a Class A misdemeanor.

The City Commission must approve a second reading of the ordinance before the law is changed, which will likely be in April.