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Special election announced in Blackduck; City to vote in March on split liquor, Sunday liquor

BLACKDUCK — The Blackduck City Council passed a motion to hold a special election regarding liquor licensing and regulation within the city at their regular meeting Dec. 11.

Citizens will vote March 11 to determine whether Blackduck will become a “split liquor” city and if the city will allow Sunday liquor licenses. The election will piggyback the township elections, which are also that day.

A city that issues private on-sale liquor licenses while maintaining a municipal liquor store (The Pond) is said to have “split liquor,” according to a Minnesota statute.

The city will also vote to allow Sunday liquor licenses, which would let those establishments serve on-sale liquor on Sundays.

Kurt Benson, owner of Benson Timber, was present at the council meeting and expressed concern for the city of Blackduck with the recent closing of the American Legion building.

“We no longer have a place to hold a dance in this town,” Benson said. “We’re watching our town go down and down and down.”

Benson said he did have some discussion regarding Blackduck becoming a split liquor city with City Administrator Karin Elhard before the item appeared on the council’s agenda.

“It’s not that I’m looking for another job,” Benson said at the council meeting. “I’m willing to do something to try to draw some people in here.”

Later, Benson said since the building the American Legion used to occupy was purchased by Anderson Fabrics, his plans have slightly changed.

“I’m looking at options,” Benson said. “I’m hoping that it sparks discussion.”

The ballot will feature two questions for the residents to vote on. The first will ask if the city should allow split liquor and the second will ask if it should allow Sunday liquor.

At the council meeting, Benson asked how previous bars operated in Blackduck. Council member Rudy Patch said those businesses only offered 3.2 percent malt liquor beverages.

The elections aren’t necessary for the city to issue 3.2 percent malt liquor (beer) licenses. They deal only with intoxicating liquor licenses.

If the voters approve split liquor, the council will have to adopt a liquor licensing ordinance before they can issue any licenses. The ordinance may be adopted before or after the election, but if it is adopted before, a license cannot be issued until after voters approve, according to a Minnesota statute.

The city would also have to adopt an ordinance regarding Sunday licenses, if the voters approved.

The city clerk must certify the results of the election 10 days after it’s held.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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