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Hearing set for Wells liquor store

By Staff | Nov 4, 2012

Wells residents will get a chance to give their input on whether to keep the city’s municipal liquor store open during a meeting held Nov. 14.

It’s the second time in the past two years such a meeting has taken place.

The public hearing, beginning 9 a.m. at City Hall, is being held because the On-Off sale liquor store has lost money in two of the last three years.

“It looks like the city of Wells is doing O.K. at the present time,” says City Administrator Steve Bloom.

“We’re optimistic the liquor store has turned the corner and will not lose money,” he adds.

Bloom points out that November and December, historically the two busiest months of the year, usually have an increase in sales.

The city administrator and liquor store manager Scott Berg will conduct the hearing.

In 2009, the city-operated business had a net loss of $27,552 and nearly $62,000 in 2010.

A March 2012 state auditor report shows of the 210 city-operated liquor stores, 40 had net losses in 2010. All of the cities were located in outstate Minnesota.

Bloom says Berg is planning promotions and has other ideas to make the store profitable.

“The off-sale clearly is the revenue producer. We have to look more at the on-sale,” Bloom says.

A year ago, the City Council held a public hearing to discuss and decide if the city should get out of the liquor business.

The concensus of the council was to keep the store open, provided liquor fund reserves could be used to offset any losses.

At the time there was about $150,000 in reserves.

With three-fourths of the year over, liquor store expenditures are running about 10 percent more than budgeted.

“We believe they can make up the difference by year’s end,” says Bloom.

While council members have been invited to the hearing, they aren’t expected to take any action although various options will be outlined.

“Scott has come up with some very effective changes to increase revenue and reduce expenses,” says Bloom.

In the past, the council has considered leasing the on-sale portion or expanding the off-sale business as alternatives.

At their second meeting this month`, the council could decide to hold a special election to let voters determine if the the municipal liquor operation should continue or discontinu.

Or, the issue could be put to a vote if 5 percent or more of the registered voters sign a petition and present it to the council.