Council alters off-sale liquor ordinance to welcome Costco in Burnsville

  • Article by: DEAN SPIROS
  • Star Tribune
  • August 26, 2009 - 4:45 PM

The Burnsville City Council needed only 30 minutes to take care of business at Tuesday's governance meeting. So it goes when its members are in lockstep in paving the way for discount retailer Costco to come to town.

The four council members who took part in the meeting unanimously approved the draft of an ordinance drawn up by city staff that would change the city's off-sale liquor ordinance. The official ordinance will be presented to the Economic Development Committee on Sept. 9 before going back to the City Council for a final vote. Tuesday's vote all but sealed the deal.

Two provisions of Burnsville's ordinance needed to change for Costco's wish of finding a home along County Road 42 between County Road 5 and Interstate 35E to come true. The City Council made it happen.

The new ordinance will create a business district in the area around Burnsville Center that will be exempt from certain restrictions. Thus, Costco will be able to sell beer and wine without doing so from a freestanding building. It also does not have to be concerned about restrictions on how close it is to any existing liquor stores.

"It's a sign of the times," said Terry Maglich, owner of MGM Wines and Spirits, located across the street from Burnsville Center. "It's becoming harder and harder for an independent business to compete with the big companies."

There are seven liquor stores in Burnsville. The new ordinance would allow that number to grow to 12. MGM figures to be the store affected most by Costco's arrival.

"It's an issue that came about due to the negative economy," Maglich said. "Cities see the level of occupancy of retail space eroding, and they see their tax base shrink. Then a big retailer like Costco comes along and ruffles some feathers."

Costco is the fourth-largest general retailer in the nation. Members pay $50 a year to shop at the warehouse for food, clothing, home goods, beer and wine. It operates stores in Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, St. Louis Park and Coon Rapids and has identified the south metro as its next Minnesota target area.

Burnsville is the logical destination largely because Lakeville, Apple Valley and Savage are served exclusively by city-operated liquor stores.

Liquor stores outside the newly created business district will have to adhere to the policy of being a standalone building. The new ordinance changes the minimum distance between liquor stores from 1 mile to three-quarters of a mile.

The possibility exists that the five remaining liquor store "slots" could be filled within the new business district, changing the face of the County Road 42 retail strip.

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9283

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