St. Paul Park liquor license fees likely to jump -- but by how much?Three council members proposed three different plans for increasing the cost of a full liquor license for bars in St. Paul Park.
How much — not if — liquor license fees will rise for bars in St. Paul Park appears to be the question after the City Council met again recently to discuss a proposed hike.
Three council members proposed three different plans for increasing the cost of a full liquor license for bars in St. Paul Park at a meeting last week. The city says it hasn’t raised the cost of the $2,500 annual license – which allows bars to sell both beer and liquor – since 1983.
City officials have pointed out that on-sale liquor licenses in neighboring Cottage Grove and nearby Woodbury are far more expensive, $9,500 and $10,000 per year, respectively.
“I think it’s been a pretty good deal for a long time,” said council member Jennifer Cheesman, who proposed a $1,000 hike in the fee, a figure on the low end of the increases recommended during the meeting.
The council won’t vote on a fee bump until May at the earliest, said City Administrator Kevin Walsh, following another council workshop on the issue. A public hearing will be held prior to a vote, he said.
Council member Jeff Swenson proposed raising the fee by $1,250 over three years, to $3,750, using a tiered approach. That, he said, would give the owners of the five bars that would be impacted by the change — Broadway Bar and Grill, Franke’s Bar, Hidden Harbor, Park Grove Bowl and Park Place Bar — time to prepare for and adapt to the fee increase.
And, despite the proposed increase, “we’re still significantly under Cottage Grove and Woodbury,” Swenson said.
The American Legion bar on Broadway Avenue would be exempt from the proposal because of its club status under state law. It pays $250 per year for a full liquor license.
Cheesman proposed a slightly smaller increase, to $3,500 per year. Council member Sandi Dingle said she would like to see the current fee doubled
“The bars down there have become so much more popular,” Dingle said of Broadway, where most of the city’s bars are located. “That’s great; good for them. But it’s a much different downtown than it used to be.”
Police were called to incidents involving St. Paul Park bars more in 2011 than during a similar review completed in 2007, according to a report compiled by the city’s police department and presented to council members during the workshop.
Walsh said one police call — if pursued to prosecution, a majority of which aren’t — can cost the city thousands of dollars. But that’s not the driving force behind increasing fees, he said.
“I think that’s a really small portion of the justification for the fee [increase],” Walsh said. According the report from Mike Monahan, the city’s police chief, the hourly pay rate for a St. Paul Park police officer has more than doubled since 1983, when the current fee went into effect.
Mayor Keith Franke, the owner of Franke’s Bar on Broadway Avenue as well as the nearby Park Café, has recused himself from council discussion on the issue but has said he isn’t opposed to an increase.
“I think, having to set aside [that] I’m a bar owner, an increase for the city is due,” Franke said in an interview. “How much, I can’t say.”