By Brandi Makuski
City leaders are considering a new grant program to help promote new businesses foot the bill for one of the city’s limited Class B liquor licenses.
The idea is the brain child of City Clerk John Moe, who said many surrounding municipalities offer some kind of reimbursement to help offset the cost of the $10,000 license. He said the number of regular liquor licenses available in the city- 55- was set by the state in 1997, but additional “reserve” licenses become available dependent on the city’s population growth.
“It seems everyone I was calling does this,” Moe said. “Let’s be honest- the reason [the state] did this was, they want to limit competition. I believe the municipalities should know themselves better than the state government; if we have an individual that comes in, and has a good proposal, they shouldn’t be punished just because they come in after all the licenses have been issued.”
Moe, along with City Treasurer Corey Ladick, brought the proposal for consideration to the city’s Finance Committee last week in a move to encourage local business growth. The two have asked City Council members create a series of guidelines for new businesses to follow in order to qualify for the grant.
Guidelines could include stipulations on location, parking availability, noise and impact on the surrounding neighborhood, building improvements and property investment, experience of the owner or proximity to other licensed establishments, among any other variables the Council wanted, Moe said.
“One condition I would recommend is having 51 percent of the sales be non-alcohol related,” said Mayor Mike Wiza. “That might be a restaurant, that might be the Fox Theater. I mean, $9,500 is nothing when you’re opening a new business- that’s signage.”
Ladick said the new grant program would help encourage new businesses otherwise put off by the high cost of the license, adding Council-driven stipulations would add a measure of control over the quality of new businesses.
“So if somebody spends $10,000 (on improvements), they get $5,000 back,” Ladick said. “But we need to make those guidelines as black and white as possible.”
Any conditions set by the Council, Moe said, would be separate from those imposed by the City Plan Commission.
Council Members are expected to vote on proposed guidelines Monday night at 7 PM during its regular meeting in the courthouse. The public is welcome.