Some Cloquet Bar Owners Want Liquor License Relief for When Pandemic Dried Sales
While they're seeking a prorated or discounted fee, the City says reducing the liquor license fee would have other repercussions.
CLOQUET, Minn.- After months of pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions where some or all of their establishments sat unused, some bar and restaurant owners in Cloquet are asking the City Administration for a break in liquor license fees.
“Quite honestly at this point we’re just asking them to help us with something. Whether it be prorated by day, prorated by month, give us a little discount,” said Adam Bailey, owner of the Jack Bar on Cloquet Avenue.
The Jack was closed for 71 days during the first shutdown last March, and 51 days during the November dial-back.
Bailey says he pays around $3,000 for his license. “‘Cause we have a $2,500 base fee, we have a dance permit in order to have a dance in here, we have an amusement fee for all our dart boards, our pool tables and what have you.”
But he says it’s unfair, since those parts of his bar have sat dark since the pandemic began.
“I try to compare it to somebody who’s paying rent, and the house is ripped off the house, and those people can’t live in that house for five months but the landlord still requires them to pay their rent,” Bailey said.
The first time Bailey reached out about this Cloquet City Officials say they tried to help.
“We made the decision that instead of reducing fees or for just the one industry we wanted first offer deferred payments for liquor license fees to try to spread the cost out over the course of the year,” said Tim Peterson, Cloquet City Administrator.
Deferrals and loans don’t work, said Bailey. “Well what happened in December we were closed again so deferring the payments doesn’t do us any good.”
“We don’t want any more loans, we wanna pay our businesses off, not continue accruing debt,” he said.
After the second shutdown Bailey says more businesses felt similarly, and don’t see why Cloquet cannot do the same as surrounding cities.
“You’ve got Proctor who has significantly discounted their license fees, Scanlon who borders us, Carlton who basically borders us; they all significantly discounted their license fees.” said Bailey. “Duluth has helped its bar and restaurant industry.”
But according to Peterson, it’s not that simple and would require utilizing a levy. “Any reduction in fees that he city receives, there’s not great way to obviously recoup that. The only way that a city can really do that is to pass it on to residents.”
He said business owners can seek different county, state, and federal assistance online. Still, Peterson says this far into the pandemic anything is still on the table, and City Council will discuss the request.
“We weren’t unlike many that had to change the way that we do business while still trying to provide all the services that we can to residents and businesses,” he said. “So yeah it’s difficult to change, adapt, but we needed to do so just like everyone else.”
Meanwhile, Bailey said he and other owners are prepared to get more vocal, speaking at city hall if they have to. “This isn’t a fighting match between bars and the city, we appreciate doing business in this town.”
“They’re elected to be the voice of the people and a large portion of this industry is speaking very clearly that we’d like the city to step up,” said the bar owner.