Liquor License Law: A Decision That Bad Has to Come From Somewhere

Last week’s liquor license decision was so bad that I’ve been at a loss for words to describe it (or perhaps had too many of the four-lettered ones). Whenever City Council votes on a topic, particularly one that’s a bit controversial, the outcome of that vote sends a message about where we’re heading as a community and what we stand for. Last week’s vote spoke loudly; here’s what it said to me.

On the one hand, Minot’s City Council needs our MAGIC Fund sales tax dollars to create jobs — as long as they are the right kind of jobs like building pipes. But for those entrepreneurs making a go of it in the fickle food business — so sorry, your investments are not as important. Minot’s leadership doesn’t care about the jobs you create. They don’t care about what you add to the community culturally. They only care about ensuring that because your license didn’t cost as much as another license — you act differently.

Here’s another message that came through for me. City Council is willing to do the work of guiding Minot by creating laws and regulations for our community — as long as they don’t have to look any further than Grand Forks, Fargo, and Bismarck as examples. And don’t ask them to look too closely either. Those three communities were the foundation of Minot’s new law, but nevermind the fact that neither Grand Forks or Fargo have quotas on liquor licenses and Bismarck has a restaurant license that has no restrictions on time. Those little details are too much work to consider.

And here’s the final message I heard. Most members of Minot’s City Council just don’t get it. The majority of our Alderman (thank you for your sensible votes Alderman Connole, Fry, Pankow, and Schuler) are not equipped to guide this city any longer. The real issue at play here was Minot’s archaic liquor licensing system that makes it virtually impossible to open a new business. But City Council wasn’t interested in solving the real problem; instead, they chose to treat a symptom. And in turn, they did real damage to five very important businesses (more on that in the coming days) and the economic climate and entrepreneurial spirit that was — until recently — beginning to find a foothold.

So why would they make such a terrible decision? Well, rather than indulge ideas of conspiracy and corruption (I genuinely believe members of City Council are doing the best they can and want the best for Minot), I’m going to assume they simply didn’t know any better. Not everyone thinks like a business owner, not everyone has a background in economics, not everyone understands the consequences of regulatory policy, but with a little help — they can.

So over the course of this summer The Minot Voice will be introducing everyone (and particularly City Council) to the A, B, C’s of Economics. Because if we don’t understand how the laws we make impact the businesses and people in our community, then it’s unlikely we’ll ever write a law worth the paper it’s written on. And if we get really off track, we’ll end up with more laws like the one we got last week.

Here’s your introduction to the A, B, C’s of Economics and how they relate to Minot’s newly affirmed yet terrible liquor license law.

Josh Wolsky

Developer & Writer @TheMinot Voice, Fan of the Souris River, There's a lot to Savor about Minot. Fortunate to be a 'former' City Council member ;)

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