There's a battle brewing in Eagan as Cub Foods seeks approval to sell off-sale liquor across the street from an elementary school, near the intersection of Diffley Road and Lexington Avenue.

That proposal has irked a group of liquor store owners, who say the city, with 17 liquor stores, already has more per capita than just about any other in the state and doesn't need another one, especially near a school.

But city officials say Cub meets all the requirements for an off-sale liquor license, and it's not the city's place to interfere with the free market.

"In addition to the catastrophic effect a large new liquor store would have on several existing Eagan businesses, it would be bad for our community as well," said Kory Krause, owner of MGM Wine and Spirits, which is about a mile away from where Cub is planning to open its store.

Krause, who is spearheading the opposition to Cub's plans, said another store in a saturated market could force several liquor stores out of business, leading to jobs lost and financial hardship for the owners.

Among those worried is Eduard Fisher, owner of Amber Liquor, which shares one end of the parking lot in the strip mall where the Cub store is located.

"They can put any price to put me out of business," Fisher said in his store Thursday.

Cub Foods has notified an Eagan city clerk of its plans for the store, which would be located in a new strip mall next to Cub, but the company has not yet filed an application with the city.

"Like many businesses, Cub doesn't disclose any expansion plans," said Lee Ann Jorgenson, spokesman for Cub Foods.

Opponents have claimed that the city is considering changing the setback requirements so that Cub could open the store. City officials say that's false.

The current requirements say a liquor store must be at least 200 feet away from the property line of a school, church or day-care center; if Cub leases space in the new strip shopping center, just south and east of the existing Cub store, its new store would be more than 300 feet south of the school, said Eagan city administrator Tom Hedges,

"Cub Foods already meets all of the regulations," Hedges said.

Krause, however, said questions remain over where the school's property line actually runs.

Hedges said the opponents have incorrectly surmised a connection between two different matters that the City Council will take up at different times. The Cub liquor license request would be one, and it's not yet on the agenda.

A separate issue is on Tuesday's agenda. The council will take up the matter of separation requirements between off-sale and on-sale liquor establishments and churches, schools and other protected uses of land. The meeting isn't intended to address limits or restrictions related to issuing liquor licenses, officials said.

Gene VanOverbeke, director of administrative services for Eagan, said that last November, Cub had wanted a liquor license to sell 3.2 beer. But it did not meet that setback requirement for spacing between the grocery store and the school. The store is 195 feet from the school's property line; the ordinance required 200 feet.

The council determined that the 200-foot spacing requirement for off-sale 3.2 beer was not necessary, and it approved a citywide ordinance amendment that removed spacing requirements for 3.2 sales. Cub then got its 3.2 license.

A separate action at the same meeting directed staff to research the current 200-foot spacing requirements for other kinds of liquor licenses, such as an off-sale liquor store or on-sale liquor sales at a restaurant. That issue will be taken up Tuesday evening.

Opponents have raised questions over whether the City Council should accept donations totaling $2,000 to the city's police and fire departments from Cub as it's planning to apply for an off-sale liquor license.

It's not uncommon for franchises or companies to donate to the city, and such donations would in no way affect any decision to issue a liquor license, Hedges said.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017