The Park Rapids City Council decided Tuesday to take no action toward including liquor sales in their May 6 resolution to allow downtown restaurants and bars to plan “alfresco” dining areas.

Their previous action created a temporary permit for outdoor dining areas on the sidewalk or curbside parking area, starting when Gov. Tim Walz lifts restrictions on in-person dining and ending by Oct. 31, to promote businesses’ recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19.

City Clerk Margie Vik submitted a memo to the council noting that:

  • Only the state has the power to approve or terminate a liquor license, other than a 3.2 beer license. The city has no control over state liquor regulations.

  • To serve alcohol in an outdoor area, a licence holder would have to apply to the state for an amended liquor license, and it would have to be in a controlled space adjacent to their premises that would then be licensed and insured as part of their premises.

  • While the Walz’s executive order remains in effect, the state does not allow merchants to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises, but only to pick up with take-out food orders.

  • City code does not allow consumption of alcohol in public spaces other than licensed premises, and temporary licenses can only be issued to non-profit organizations.

Based on the issues Vik raised, City Administrator Ryan Mathisrud said staff was not recommending any action regarding outdoor on-sale liquor sales.

“It would be more effective if the governor were to issue an executive order that would temporarily lift those liquor laws, similar to what he did with the six-packs,” he said – referring to the executive order in which Walz temporarily allowed up to six bottles of beer to be included in a takeout food order.

City council members agreed to await further developments before taking any action.

“We don’t even know that the restaurants are going to use the outdoor seating,” said Mayor Ryan Leckner. “They can serve alcohol inside and not outside. If we want to look further into it and it becomes a big deal, we can look further later. But I think we should leave it alone at this time.”

Council member Erika Randall said the idea of allowing outdoor alcohol use had “too many moving parts to make this efficient and/or useful to our businesses downtown.”

Liquor store sign

A late addition to the council’s agenda, which was pulled out of consent items at Randall’s request, proposed to pay Indigo Sign Works $2,200 to repair the message center on the pylon sign at the municipal liquor store.

Rapids Spirits Manager Scott Olson had proposed repairing the sign this year, then budgeting to replace it in 2021 with a full-color display estimated to cost $26,000 to $33,000. Randall questioned the cost effectiveness of repairing the sign only to replace it next year.

Mathisrud said he and Olson discussed requesting the replacement during the budgeting process for 2021. Meanwhile, he said, the existing sign was “starting to look tacky,” and they thought the city should continue to maintain it.

“The other option is to let it go until next year, if we’re confident that we can get those funds in the budget,” said Mathisrud.

Randall suggested asking the finance committee to discuss using liquor store funds to replace the sign this year. Asked if he would agree to this option, Olson said that the reason they didn’t suggest it was that it wasn’t in this year’s budget.

Randall moved to instruct city staff to ask the finance committee to fund the sign’s replacement this year. The motion passed without dissent.

In consent items and general business, the city council:

  • Hired Teri Osterman with Resources Training and Solutions to conduct a one-day rate study of the city’s utilities for $1,500.

  • Hired Patrick Simmons and Charles Barbin as temporary, seasonal public works employees.

  • Approved a public facilities use permit for Jeremy Nordick with the Park Rapids School District to use Helten Ave., Fair Ave., 5th St., Main Ave. and Pearl Ave. for the high school graduation parade from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 24.

  • Purchased two new sets of firefighter turnout gear for $7,495.

  • Purchased a 55-gallon barrel of Class A foam for the Park Rapids Fire Department for $1,150.

  • Approved payables totaling $15,110 and prepaids totaling $351,810.

  • Rescheduled the council’s first August meeting from Tuesday, Aug. 11 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, due to a conflict with the state primary election.

The city council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26.