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Wells city bar may be closed

By Staff | May 18, 2014

The ultimate resolution to close on-sale liquor sales at the Wells municipal liquor store was not officially decided last Monday by the Wells City Council during a public hearing, but the fate of the bar does not look promising.

The liquor store has been in Wells since 1948 and will most likely see 2014 be its final year, according to city administrator Robin Leslie.

“The City Council will probably decide to close the bar,” Leslie says. “Getting rid of the on-sale liquor sales will reduce overhead costs, which was taking away from the profits made.”

The liquor store has been facing a net loss the past five years. The last time the store turned a profit was in 2008.

In 2009 they lost $14,982; in 2010 the store lost $53,315; in 2011 it was $27,567; in 2012 the store lost $44,948 and last year the liquor store lost an approximate $73,515, but the audit is not yet complete.

Four Wells residents voiced their concern and all had the general consensus of being in favor of getting rid of the on-sale liquor license.

“We can’t continue to put in money and not see anything in return,” Gary Hagen told the City Council.

The manager of the liquor store, Scott Berg, also attended the public hearing and reported to the City Council his anticipated gross sales from this year will break $800,000.

“We are doing the best we can with what we have available to us,” Berg says. “I agree that this situation needs to be addressed one way or the other. I appreciate all the input and I understand why.”

Leslie added it would be nice to have the bar open through Kernel Days so the United South Central/Wells-Easton all-school reunion can enjoy it one last time.

“Right now, we just don’t know,” Leslie says. “Cities usually benefit from these municipal liquor stores because they create extra revenue for beautification projects, parks and the general fund, but that is not happening.”

Another idea suggested at the public hearing was a change in location for the off-sale liquor.

According to Berg, the current location on Broadway does not get a lot of out – of – town traffic because it is not very visible.

“We do not have very good signage,” he says. “Guests to our town might not even know it’s a liquor store.”

One location mentioned for the off-sale liquor store is the Economic Development Authority (EDA) incubator building on the corner of Highway 109 and 22, diagonally across from Subway.

Another location was north of the incubater on Highway 109, which used to be the Bump’s Auto Ranch.

“If we did end up looking into this location, it would be great because of the high traffic and the fact it is very visible,” Leslie says.

Also, the location of where the Casey’s General Store used to be was mentioned, but manager Berg disagreed because of the small building space.

One final location brought up was a vacant lot east on Highway 109, between Market Place Foods and Dollar Store, right on the highway.

“Finding a new location would need lots of financial research because we would have to pay for a new location, possibly build a new structure, or possibly remodel a current building,” Leslie explains.

However, Leslie made it clear at the public hearing that it is essential for the roof and air conditioning units to be fixed at the current liquor store location.

“The roof over the bar needs about $30,000 worth of repairs. If we are to sell the building at some point, this needs to be done,” she says. “Also, a temporary fix to the air conditioning would cost $2,000, or we could opt for the long-term fix for $3,000.”

In addition to the roof and air conditioning, some barstools need to be replaced, there needs to be a new computer and new signage has not been put up in years, Leslie says.

“Either way, this will be a difficult decision,” City Council member Ashley Seedorf explains.