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BELTRAMI COUNTY: How close is too close? County board to weigh in on liquor sales near Red Lake

BEMIDJI -- A proposed liquor store at a resort on the edge of Beltrami County is raising eyebrows across the border on the Red Lake Nation, which bans the sale and possession of alcohol.

At a Beltrami County Board meeting Tuesday, a delegation from the Red Lake Nation voiced opposition to the county possibly granting an off-sale liquor license to Roger's Resort and Campground on the grounds the resort would be selling alcohol too close to the reservation.

"It just seems a shame," Red Lake Tribal Council member Gary Nelson said, citing the prevalence of alcoholism and drug abuse on the reservation.

Chris Freudenberg, one of the new owners of the resort, rattled off a list of liquor-selling establishments already near the border.

"It's not our intent to target the tribe," Freudenberg said. "Our intent is to provide service to our guests."

County Auditor/Treasurer JoDee Treat said the resort was 5.5 miles from the reservation as the crow flies, 6 miles by road.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick suggested there be standing county regulations that governed how close new liquor-selling establishments were located to Red Lake.

"I think it's a policy decision the board should make: to make a buffer line... and say 'There will be no licenses approved within X number of miles of the reservation boundaries," he said. Distance doesn't matter in the highly mobile world we live in today, Commissioner Richard Anderson said: people who want booze will find a way to get it regardless of regulatory obstacles.

"If they drive five miles or they have to drive 15, they're going to do it," he said.

Commissioner Tim Sumner, who represents the Red Lake Nation on the board, said the potential negative health effects of a new liquor source tempered the potential boost to the local economy the store might bring.

"There's no price you can put on a life," he said.

The commission voted to postpone a decision on the issue until their Sept. 2 meeting, in order to give time for commissioners to learn more before they vote.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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