FARGO — A controversial off-sale liquor store that has been on the northeast corner of downtown Fargo for about 60 years is closing to make room for a new development.
Fargo city commissioners on Monday night, Dec. 2, approved a transfer of the liquor license from Steve's Package Store at 524 4th St. N. to another Royal Liquors store that will open in the Village West shopping center next to Hornbacher's across from West Acres Regional Shopping Center on 13th Avenue South.
Owner Jim Swanick said in an interview after the transfer was approved that he sold the store and property he has owned since 2001 to developer Jesse Craig, whom he said would be redeveloping the entire block.
Swanick and city officials negotiated over the liquor license transfer, but he said he didn't feel any pressure to close the store. Steve's Package Store is slated to close in late December.
"I think it's a good outcome for all concerned," Swanick said. "The city is happy, and I'm happy with the outcome."
He said he grew up in the neighborhood and "knows every inch of it," but he recognized there were problems in that area.
"I hope it improves" the situation there, Swanick said.
The liquor store, following a request for information from The Forum to police, was found to have accumulated more than 190 police calls in the last five years as of June, including reports of suspicious people, intoxicated individuals, assaults and disturbances.
Across the street at the abandoned Sahr's Sudden Service station, food truck owner Jason "Jay" Allen Halvorson, of Fargo, was fatally shot this past June, although there was no apparent connection to the liquor store.
Steve's Package Store is one of the few off-sale stores in the downtown area, and it may see more calls because intoxicated people may stop there to buy alcohol after leaving the bars, Fargo Police Lt. George Vinson said this summer after the killing.
Swanick said he still owns the nearby Empire Liquors store on Broadway.
Swanick's family has been involved in liquor businesses in the city since the 1940s when his uncles owned and operated Speck's Bar and the now-closed Nestor, two bars in the west-central part of the city. His uncles also purchased the Empire tavern and liquor store in 1947, and it remains one of Fargo's oldest bars.
He said the new Royal Liquors store to open by the mall will be his family's sixth in the city with that name. They also own the Bismarck Tavern just down the street from the Empire on Broadway.
At the City Commission meeting, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he thought the closing of Steve's Package Store was "important for the city."
Piepkorn, who serves as a liaison to the city's liquor control board, also noted that the Fourth Street area would be redeveloped, and city officials worked successfully with Swanick on the license transfer.
"It was a good outcome," Mayor Tim Mahoney said.