Bismarck population regulates number of some liquor licenses

BISMARCK, N.D. - There are only a certain number of liquor licenses available in the city of Bismarck. That meant for one business recently, they had to choose which of their locations could have the permit to sell alcohol on the premises.

There are more than 20 types of liquor licenses available. Two of those, Class D and Class E are regulated by population size. Right now, there are only 24 Class D licenses and 16 Class E permits available based on Bismarck's 2010 census data. All of those are being used right now.

So for Cash Wise Foods, that meant they had to make a decision, keep their liquor license at the store on Expressway, or transfer it to the new store up north.

As part of its new store in north Bismarck, Cash Wise also has a new liquor store. Because there were no new liquor licenses available for that type of store, they had to transfer the one from the south store to the north store.

“Tough decision, but a good decision,” Pam Helm, Cash Wise Liquor district 1 supervisor said. “We knew the growing market up in the north part of Bismarck and we were opening the brand new grocery store and so it was a good opportunity.”

While there are more than 20 types of liquor licenses available, only a Class D permit would be applicable to the store's liquor department. In 2010, Bismarck had a population of 61,272 people according to the census. But, city officials say estimates now put the city around the 72,000 mark.

“That won’t change until the census data in 2020 is produced and at that time we will see what our population looks like and there could be a potential for more of those Class D and Class E licenses,” said Jason Tomanek, Bismarck assistant city administrator.

Helm says if new licenses do become available, the south Cash Wise location's liquor store could open up again.

“We know that we were a great service to our south Bismarck guests and when that becomes available we will definitely explore that option,” Helm said.

However, Tomanek says that exact data probably won't be available until early 2021.

Tomanek says the city attorney is also doing a comprehensive review of all the licenses to see if there is a way to create efficiencies and make sure each license is doing what it's supposed to, and serving businesses the right way.