Name drawn out of hat to pick Fargo's newest liquor license holder

FARGO -- Luck picked the winning downtown bar that got a liquor license Monday, Feb. 12 -- but the loser could get one soon, too.
64 Broadway. N. in downtown Fargo. Forum file photo

FARGO - Luck picked the winning downtown bar that got a liquor license Monday, Feb. 12 - but the loser could get one soon, too.

A complicated discussion came up Monday as the City Commission talked about current ordinance, which says one Class Z license is available and requires a "drawing" to determine who gets it if too many bars apply.

But some commissioners suggested the cap on Class Z licenses shouldn't prevent both businesses from moving forward.

Following discussion, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn reached into a white hard hat held by City Auditor Steve Sprague and pulled out a sheet of paper that named District 64, 64 Broadway N., as the winning applicant to buy a $105,000 license.

The other applicant, Cowboy Jack's, 64 4th St. N., lost the drawing for the license, which doesn't require food sales and allows unrestricted on-sale of liquor, beer and wine.

Under city ordinance, there are seven Class Z licenses available now. An eighth was created recently because there's an additional license for each 10,000-person increase in the population.

Sprague said two groups applied by the Dec. 31 deadline, and a third filed late. The Liquor Control Board sent both on-time applicants to the commission.

Before the drawing, Tony Gehrig said the cap seemingly stems from public "concern" that there would otherwise be a bar on every corner.

"I think that that fear is often misguided and drives bad policy," he said. "I don't think it's good policy to decide what bar owner should get possibly a multimillion dollar business based on a coin flip or drawing out of a hat."

Gehrig suggested that the city approve licenses for both applicants, and Piepkorn seconded the motion.

Mayor Tim Mahoney asked Gehrig what he'd do about the third applicant who wasn't considered Monday, pointing out they couldn't apply for a Class Z license under current ordinance.

Commissioner John Strand asked if this was what the community would want downtown, and said he wouldn't ignore ordinance just because there was more than one applicant. He made a motion to conduct the drawing Monday.

City Attorney Erik Johnson said commissioners only had authority to approve one license Monday and would have to amend the ordinance before granting a second. Gehrig then withdrew his motion, and the commissioners voted unanimously to hold the drawing to pick one recipient.

David Erickson, who is from losing applicant Cowboy Jack's, told commissioners he will continue through the regular process - after checking the hat to ensure the drawing he lost was fair.

The Liquor Control Board will discuss adding an additional Class Z license for District 64, Piepkorn said.