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Dan Bahr, manager of the Bemidji liquor stores, is retiring from his position after nearly 40 years with the city of Bemidji. Pioneer Photo/ Monte Draper

Dan Bahr retires after 40 years with city of Bemidji

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The average American has more than 10 jobs throughout his or her lifetime, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dan Bahr breaks that mold.

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Bahr, 58, is retiring this fall after about 40 years with the city of Bemidji, specifically, with its liquor operations.

"I've made a lot of friends through customers, staff, distributors," he said.

A retirement party is planned in Bahr's honor from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at the America Legion Club in downtown Bemidji.

Bahr's first job began as June 6, 1969, when he was hired as a stock boy/janitor for the city's liquor stores.

"Whatever needed to be done, I did," said Bahr, who was born and raised in Bemidji.

The city at that time had two liquor stores, but they were in different locations than they are now. One was where the current Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center is now located, and the other was along the Mississippi River near the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

In August 1970, Bahr joined the U.S. Army and served two years in Berlin. He got out in April 1972 and immediately rejoined the city's workforce.

That same year, the city built its north liquor store, Bemidji Discount Liquor. Bahr remembers helping move into the new store.

Bahr continued to work in the liquor stores, focusing his time mostly in the northern store. In 1975, he became assistant manager of that location.

In 1977, he became the manager of both liquor stores and began overseeing operations at both locations. He supervised two other full-time employees and 15-18 part-time workers.

"I loved it," he said. "I loved meeting all the people. There wasn't a single aspect of the job I didn't like."

Through his work, Bahr also got connected with the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association. He has served as vice president of that group for nearly eight years, but is stepping down.

"I loved meeting the people," Bahr said.

The MMBA was a nice networking guide, Bahr said, because municipal liquor stores do not compete with one another.

If a new product was coming out, he said he could call a municipal store in the Twin Cities and find it out if it was popular.

"That was helpful," he said, "and it's always been that way."

During his nearly 40 years in the liquor stories, Bahr said he is amazed by the variety of products he has seen.

"Young people like alcohol, but don't want to taste the alcohol," he said.

In the 1980s, Bahr said, there was a small window of opportunity during which private liquor stores were able to open near the city limits. During this time, both Northern Liquor and Noel's Bottle Shop, both along Bemidji Avenue North, were allowed to open.

Previously, there had been a mileage limit on how close private stores could operate near city limits, Bahr said.

Prior to the private competition, Bahr said, Bemidji was consistently ranked fourth among statewide municipal liquor gross profits.

Even after the private stores opened, he said, Bemidji ranked between 11th and 15th.

Bemidji got into the liquor business after Prohibition to help control the sale of alcohol and to generate revenue for the city, according to the city's Web site. The stores contribute more than $400,000 annually toward the city budget and street improvement projects.

"The profits from the liquor stores go back to keep taxes down," Bahr said, noting that the stores were on pace in 2009 to contribute nearly $500,000 to the city's budget.

During his time running the city's liquor business, Bahr also said he saw changes in the legal drinking age as it went from 21 to 18 and 19 and back up to 21.

The customer base, however, has always remained strong.

"The customer ratio has gone up," he said, contributing it to increased populations. "We're gaining more customers than we're losing."

Bahr stopped going to work in September, and he is now using up his remaining vacation time.

While Bahr said he doesn't have specific retirement plans, he noted that he was able to enjoy the time off for his daughter's wedding a few weeks ago.

He also could see himself continuing to work with the MMBA on outreach and conducting store visits.

"This industry has treated me well over the years," Bahr said.

His wife, Linda, cares for their grandchildren during the weekdays while their children work. In all, Bahr and Linda have three grown children - all local - and five grandchildren.

bwesley@bemidjipioneer.com

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