FARGO — Months after the suspension of Africa Restaurant & Nightclub's liquor license, the Fargo City Commission has conditionally approved the transfer of the facility's liquor license to a local real estate business.
The owner of the building, 518 Properties, owned by Tyler Brandt, aims to assume operations with an agreement to purchase the license from the club’s previous owners.
Commissioners earlier revoked the license because of public safety concerns, including the shooting death of a club bouncer at a nearby parking lot in May.
A representative of 518 Properties, Dan Hicks, said a management team is not yet in place. Plans call for keeping the same business concept.
“We believe it’s an underserved area in the metro,” he said.
The Fargo Liquor Control Board unanimously approved the conditional plan before sending it on to the City Commission.
The conditional clause was encouraging to Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who also serves on the liquor board.
"I think it's a good business, and with good ownership and good management, it's a good addition to the community," Piepkorn said. "But I do think it's very important that we know who the manager is ... because I think that's critical to the future safety and success."
Others took issue with the lack of a complete management plan.
"We've had (applicants for) liquor licenses come before us in the past who wanted a liquor license, but we denied them because they didn't have a layout of the facility," Commissioner Tony Gehrig said. "So we're bending over backwards again for this.... We shouldn't be voting on this at this time."
Commissioner John Strand noted the contingency being given to 518 Properties paralleled the reason the commission did not allow the original owners to keep the liquor license.
"They didn't have management. They didn't have a plan," he said. "But now we're back to square one. We've got another applicant who doesn't have a plan and doesn't have a manager."
Strand also said both parties in the liquor license agreement had run-ins with police on their records. However, Corey Schultz, the previous owner of the license, had a more recent and negative interaction with police, Piepkorn said.
Police Chief David Zibolski echoed Piepkorn and added that charges from several years ago against the new manager were dismissed.
"An arrest probably shouldn't even have been made in this case," he said.
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners approved the conditional sale on a 3-2 vote with Commissioner Arlette Preston, Mayor Tim Mahoney and Piepkorn in favor. Strand and Gehrig voted against approval.
Once the management team is in place and the business concept is firm, the beverage license transfer will come back before the Liquor Control Board and City Commission for final approval.