News & Commentary: Will Minot Open for New Business? Liquor License Quotas Up For Discussion

It’s taken a few months to gather up the supporting information, but the discussion on Minot’s liquor license laws and the quota system which restricts the number of businesses that can sell alcohol is a set to start tomorrow.

The ad hoc committee appointed by Mayor Barney is tasked with looking at our laws to see if there are improvements that can be made. The first issue they’re talking about is the quota system that states in law that Minot is only allowed one full retail liquor license per 1,500 residents.

The meeting and discussion will take place Wednesday, November 9th at 2:00 p.m. at City Hall. If you’re the masochistic type and want to read our laws in detail, here’s the link.

Commentary

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Minot’s current liquor licensing system. Though it was likely unintentional at its inception, Minot’s quota system and the high-but-unknown value of a license to sell alcohol has been stifling economic development and new business starts for decades. It needs to be fixed, and most people who believe the government (our City’s laws) should be an unbiased referee when it comes to commerce agree.

The struggle for most informed business owners and citizens is what do we do about those who have invested money in a license? Because they are limited in their availability, a liquor license in Minot, ND — a piece of paper issued by the City — is rumored to be more valuable than the average Minot home. Taking something of value away from a business or individual is as distasteful to us as a government-backed cartel put in place decades ago by an unfortunate policy decision.

The Deed Is Already Done…

But I’ll let you in a little economic secret — the value of a liquor license in Minot is already damn close to nothing.

To explain why, let me ask you a question. If you wanted to open a liquor store in Minot right now, and you knew you needed a license to do it, would you buy one from a private seller right now? The answer is no because at this point in time, the value of a license is in question.

Here’s the reality of our present situation — the simple act of forming the ad hoc committee and taking up the question of whether the quota system is right for Minot has created uncertainty in the marketplace for liquor licenses. No wise investor or entrepreneur is going to purchase a license while the value remains in question or uncertain.

So, the burden now on the ad hoc committee is high. They’re going to be tasked with finding a solution to this problem; they’re very likely going to have to set some value for a license whether they like it or not. The question is, what will the value of that license be? Will they set it so that Minot is a place where new businesses and investment is welcome? Or will we be a place where government works to preserve value for those that already have a license?

I’ll be hoping we open Minot up for new business and let a competitive marketplace determine who get’s to stay in business, and with a bit of creative thinking, we can probably preserve some value for current license holders. I’ll be talking more about that in coming days.

The meeting tomorrow is open to the public, and you can be confident I’ll be there offering my own citizen input. How about you?

Josh Wolsky

Editor and Publisher of TheMinotVoice, Developer of the #ForMinot Network,  Co-Host of #GoodTalk Minot, Advocate and Friend of the Souris River, Former City Alderman, and clearly -- all things #MakeMinot. Go ahead, don't wait for permission!

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