The Bismarck City Commission is looking at streamlining the liquor license ordinance.
With over 20 on the books, and some not even in use, they want to make the code less complicated. However they're running into issues with the two types of licenses that are regulated class D and E, which are regulated based on census data. Those licenses are for places like bars and liquor stores.
Current license owners are happy with the regulation because their licenses are valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars on the private market. But for those without, they want less regulation and increased competition.
Plaza Beer Depot owner Susan Pudwill has a class D license for her business. Thirty-eight years after purchasing the store she's happy with how the city regulates the licenses.
“I don't think they should just be handing them out left and right,” Pudwill said.
She says the current system is working well and doesn't want the city to have an unlimited number of licenses or change how they're able to transfer, decreasing the value of her license.
“We don't want them to put an arbitrary limit as to you can only transfer it for so many years,” Pudwill said.
Michelle Kaufman at Sixteen03 Main Events doesn't agree.
“We have a lot of very wonderful ideas for events and facilities we would love to open in Bismarck and in the past we haven't even had that option,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman says she understands why current license owners don't want to lose their advantage, but thinks a tiered system based on alcohol sales would be better.
“There needs to be options for the little guy to get into the business,” Kaufman said.
City Attorney Jannelle Combs says she's working with all parties to come up with a solution.
“The commission said there's lots of good options here we want to see some change we want to be friendly to new business but we want to protect the current license holders,” Combs said.
Combs says there's no consensus on what to do because there's disagreement as to what the market value is of the class D and E licenses. She says current license owners are okay with changing from the census number to estimated census, as long as there's not more than one license released each year.