Liquor license issue raises new questions for city officials

Thursday, January 5, 2006

The Cassville City Council discussed methods for allocating liquor licenses at its regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 3.

Last month, the council passed an ordinance limiting packaged liquor licenses to five within the city limits of Cassville.

Tuesday night, Susan Lynxwiler, Cassville Wal-Mart manager, presented the council with a letter of request for a liquor license for the new Cassville Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The aldermen were notified that one liquor license, which was previously issued to Beaver Liquor in Cassville, lapsed on Jan. 1.

Kelly Paul, city clerk, sent a letter to the Beaver Liquor business on Nov. 15, 2005, notifying them of the upcoming renewal period. Paul sent the business a second notification letter after the council meeting on Dec. 20, 2005.

With no method of allocating liquor licenses in place, the city must issue a packaged liquor license to the Wal-Mart Supercenter, because it is the first to apply for the available license.

After receiving the packaged liquor license from the city, Wal-Mart must also receive a license from the county and state before selling alcohol products, said Don Cupps, city attorney.

"For the city to do this goes against all that had been put forth two weeks ago," said Larry Henbest. "Just because there are five licenses doesn't mean there has to be five."

Henbest asked for the council to adopt a new city ordinance forfeiting any packaged liquor licenses that are not renewed.

After a 15-minute executive session to discuss possible methods for allocating packaged liquor licenses, the aldermen revisited Wal-Mart's request for a packaged liquor license.

"I don't think the city has the basis to deny the liquor license that was applied for by Wal-Mart," said Cupps. "At this point in time, one license of five has lapsed. Wal-Mart has put in an application and is next in line."

Cupps presented several methods for allocating city liquor licenses in the future.

According to the methods, licenses can be transferred with a business, with real estate or terminate with the sale of a business.

If the license is transferred with the business or real estate the value of the business or real estate will be enriched, said Cupps. If the license is terminated with sale or liquidation of a business, it will return to the license pool for a new application.

Cupps also discussed several obstacles with annexing liquor-licensed property into the city.

If a license is honored after a business is annexed into the city, it will encourage businesses to build outside the city to establish a license and then move into the city limits at a later time, said Cupps.

On the other hand, if a license is not honored after annexation, it will encourage businesses to build outside the city limits, costing the city sales tax revenue.

"If you want my opinion, you just have to do the best for the most people, protect the minority interest as much as you can and move forward," said Cupps.

"The council is unjustly enriching some businesses at the expense of others," said Gary Fields, Security Bank chief executive officer. "Limiting the sale of alcohol locations is not going to limit alcohol sales in the community. I don't think you can legislate morality."

Aldermen Pete Landstad made a motion to rescind the packaged liquor license limit ordinance that was approved in December.

"I don't think we should legislate morality either," said Landstad. "We created a monster last time. We have intentionally or unintentionally put a business out of business in Cassville. We acted in haste."

The motion did not receive a second.

The aldermen tabled the ordinance regarding methods of allocating the packaged liquor licenses until the council meeting on Jan. 17.

In other business, the Cassville City Council:

Discussed the commercial building code review committee report. The building codes will remain unchanged.

Approved an agreement with the Barry County 911 Board for dispatching services.

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