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Osage liquor off-sale request postponed for two weeks

A decision on issuing a new off-sale liquor license for Osage Liquor has been postponed for two weeks by the Becker County Board of Commissioners.

At a public hearing on the proposed liquor license that was held Tuesday morning, Rev. Bill Ullom of Grace Community Church informed the commissioners that the community had not received sufficient notice of the hearing date.

"The notification of this hearing really wasn't very good for our community," Ullom said, noting that most people in the Osage area read the Park Rapids Enterprise rather than the Detroit Lakes Tribune, which is the official newspaper for Becker County.

He asked the commissioners to consider tabling a decision on the license application until a later date, "to give the people in our community the chance to come here in full force to speak to this issue."

Ullom said the close proximity of the liquor store to the church, which has "a large contingent of families with young children," is basically "sending the wrong message." Its location is "kind of in the heart of the township."

If the proposed liquor store was located somewhere on the outskirts of the Osage community rather than at its center, Ullom said, he would be more comfortable with it. He also indicated that he was concerned about the possibility of the off-sale license being converted to an on-sale license (i.e., for a bar) at some point.

License applicant Eugene Forbes, however, stated emphatically that this was not his intention.

"My intention is never to go into on-sale (at this location)," Forbes said, noting that while he currently has an on-sale license to operate a bar in another community, he has no plans to do so at the Osage site.

"An off-sale liquor store is not going to cause excessive partying or create more drinking," Forbes said. "It's just a retail establishment...we're not putting (alcohol) into anyone's hand."

Rather than being a detriment to the community, Forbes feels the addition of an off-sale liquor store would be an asset, because it would give travelers on Highway 34 one more reason to stop in Osage - and possibly stay to see what else the town has to offer. It would also bring as many as three new full-time jobs to the community.

Commissioner Larry Knutson noted that the board was in a "sticky situation," because there are Osage residents who are feeling "disenfranchised" because they were not properly notified of the hearing.

"I think we do need to do a better job of notification (in that part of the county)," he said. "I don't have a problem with tabling this...I think the people (of Osage) deserve an opportunity to be heard."

County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen noted that there was "nothing to bar you from having another public hearing" on the permit.

After some discussion, however, the board decided that rather than advertising a second public hearing, they would simply table consideration of the permit until the March 24 board meeting. Osage community residents will be given another opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue at that time.