Manager says Wells liquor store could still turn a profit this year
A public hearing required by state law was attended by only three Wells residents on Wednesday morning.
And, one of them was a member of the City Council.
City Administrator Steve Bloom and municipal liquor store manager Scott Berg presented ideas on how to make the city-operated business more profitable.
Before the meeting, Bloom received two phone calls from concerned citizens.
“They were in support of the things you are trying to do as manager down there,” Bloom told Berg.
“They wanted the council to know they appreciate the service the business provides,” he adds.
Because the on-sale and off-sale liquor store has lost money in two of the last three years, a meeting to discuss its future needed to be held.
Bloom says he’s optimistic the business can break even this year.
In 2010, the liquor store lost nearly $62,000 and $27,552 the year before.
“I’m in the business to make money for the city. It’s great to break even, but I want to do better than that,” says Berg.
Resident Gary Hagen asked is there was any consideration to relocate the business and only focus on off-sale, which makes a profit when the on-sale loses money.
He says the former Nu-Mart convenience store would be a good site.
Faribault County commissioner and resident Bill Groskreutz says the trend statewide is cities running only municipal off-sale liquor stores.
Councilman Steve Burns says the council has discussed the idea, but recent improvements totaling more than $40,000 have been made to the building.
“After we put $23,000 into the on-sale, business really picked up,” he says. “If we close, ‘who is going to buy the existing facility?'”
The councilman says closing a business with an annual sales volume of $700,000 also would have a detrimental effect on Main Street.
Hagen says the city may have to take a loss on capital upgrades made to the building in exchange for what might be more profitable in the long-term.
Berg, who was hired two years ago, outlined some upcoming promotional events for this month and December, traditionally the busiest time of the year.
“There is no giving up here. I’ve put my heart and soul into that place and the staff is working hard with me,” he says.
Bloom will be developing an action plan and present some options for the council to consider.
He says that will probably be done for the council in January, when new members take office.
“I’ll give the council a summary of this meeting and other information. We’re not in any rush,” says Bloom.
Some changes being looked at include opening the off-sale two hours earlier, at 8 a.m., and not opening the bar until the afternoon.
Berg says signs along Highway 22 could help attract more customers. Also, improvements to the interior and exterior of the building could be made.
“At some point you have to spend money to make money. We need to serve and accommodate our customers the best way we can,” says Berg. “Ultimately, it comes down to the citizens of Wells. If they want to have this place, they have to support it.”