CITY GOVERNMENT: Double-check on Discount: Council directs staff to further analyze liquor store expansion
BEMIDJI--The small and aging Discount Liquor building has spurred talk of expanding the city's alcohol sales operation. On Monday, the Bemidji City Council moved forward with that discussion by instructing staff to continue to look at possible al...
BEMIDJI-The small and aging Discount Liquor building has spurred talk of expanding the city's alcohol sales operation. On Monday, the Bemidji City Council moved forward with that discussion by instructing staff to continue to look at possible alternatives.
According to city staff, the Discount Liquor building at 460 Paul Bunyan Drive NW is more than 40 years old and needs major improvements in areas such as the coolers, flooring, entrances, parking and furnishing. Additionally, the floor space is not adequate to handle the amount of new products, which could limit growth.
In July, the council authorized a market and financial feasibility study to show the pros and cons of potential expansion. While the study has not been finalized, the council met Monday to talk about the next steps.
"We wanted this meeting to really focus on giving the council an update on alternatives and get direction if the council wants staff to pursue this further," said Ron Eischens, city finance director.
In a presentation during the meeting, the council was informed about six possibilities for liquor store expansion looked into over the past few months, which include:
• Lueken's Village Foods: City staff met with management who have limited interest in leasing space at their south store and only if the city is more specific about square footage and terms.
• PACE Development: Officials also met with PACE to discuss a new stand-alone building lease opportunity in the Westridge shopping center area.
• Northern Liquor: City Manager Nate Mathews spoke with the owners about selling the operation. The owners were not interested at first, however, they have recently expressed being open to discuss a lease with an option to buy scenario.
• Orton's Gas Station and Tobacco Super Store: City staff approached both business about selling or partnering with the city on a potential store expansion project. Orton's indicated selling was not preferred at this time and the city is still waiting to speak with Tobacco Super Store management.
• The Ground Round: The owner expressed interest when talking with city officials about selling and will provide an offer price shortly.
In her remarks, council member Nancy Erickson said she preferred the Northern Liquor location based on the information available.
"That appeals to me," Erickson said. "We can't cease their operation, the only way to be in control of the liquor sales is by owning it."
Because the study has not been finalized and the staff had no recommendation, official action wasn't taken by the council Monday. After further discussion of the different options, the consensus of the council was to have the staff continue analyzing the alternatives brought forward and complete the study.
Discount Liquor is one of two stores that are operated by the city of Bemidji, with Lakeview Liquor as the other. Both were established as a means to control alcohol sales, which remains the primary reason, however profits from the stores have been utilized to subsidize property taxes and pay for special projects. Both locations have an annual revenue exceeding $5 million.