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St. Paul Park considering hike in liquor license fees

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • July 6, 2012 - 6:40 PM

Owners of establishments in St. Paul Park that serve booze may soon have to pay more for that privilege.

The City Council is considering raising the fee for a liquor license by $500 a year for the next three years.

The city has five liquor license holders -- four bars and restaurants and one bowling alley -- and none contacted by the Star Tribune returned calls. But they will have an opportunity to speak about the proposed $1,500 hike during a public hearing July 16 at City Hall, 600 Portland Av.

St. Paul Park charges establishments that sell intoxicating beverages $2,500 a year for an on-sale license, a rate that has not gone up since 1983. City officials said the increase is necessary to cover the costs when police are called out.

While the number of police calls to bars has not gone up dramatically over the years, the cost of responding to them has, said Police Chief Mike Monahan. A single police call that results in an arrest and prosecution can cost more than $2,000, according to a summary presented at a March 6 council workshop session where the fee increase was studied.

"Our costs have quadrupled since 1983," Monahan said. "The cost of police cars is three times as much. Wages for officers [have] gone up."

Under the proposed schedule, fees would increase to $3,000 on Jan. 1, $3,500 on Jan. 1, 2014 and to $4,000 on Jan. 1, 2015.

The idea behind the graduated scale was to allow businesses to "sort of plan for it" said city administrator Kevin Walsh. "Any increase affects business, and the council took that under consideration." Plus he said, "they like having them [the bars]."

Ironically, the city's mayor will be on the sidelines as the debate takes place. Keith Franke is the owner of Franke's Bar at 304 Broadway. He has recused himself from all discussion on the matter and will not vote when it comes to the table, Walsh said.

If the measure passes, St. Paul Park would still have lower rates than neighboring Woodbury, which charges establishments $10,000 a year for each on-sale liquor license, and Cottage Grove where the fee is $9,500 a year. At $4,000, it would be higher than in Newport, which charges $2,500 annually, a city spokeswoman said.

Other fees in St. Paul Park also will rise if the measure passes. Licenses for 3.2 malt liquor on-sale and temporary licenses would go up from $25 to $50 and licenses for clubs such as the American Legion would rise from $250 annually to $300.

Retailers that sell tobacco also will pay more for licenses, which would rise from $100 a year to $125.

The proposed increase could go down, Walsh said, but not up. Any extra income from license fees will "not by any means" make the city rich.

As St. Paul Park looks at increasing fees, Cottage Grove is conducting a study to see whether its fees are too high, said city administrator Ryan Schroeder. He said the city is surveying 35 metro-area suburbs of a similar size to compare rates.

"We are checking to see where the market is," he said.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib

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