Cloquet bars still can sell liquor on Sundays
Here's good news for Vikings fans and for those who simply like to imbibe on Sundays at any Cloquet watering hole: Cloquet city councilors decided this week that people can continue to do so -- at least for another year. City officials recently l...
Here's good news for Vikings fans and for those who simply like to imbibe on Sundays at any Cloquet watering hole:
Cloquet city councilors decided this week that people can continue to do so -- at least for another year.
City officials recently learned that Cloquet -- along with many cities in Minnesota -- has been granting Sunday on-sale liquor licenses that may leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits.
Current state statute says that only restaurants, hotels, bowling alleys or clubs with a seating capacity of at least 30 people can be granted a license to sell alcohol on Sunday. That leaves out six bars and
taverns in the city, Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said.
Most of those, which include M & M Crush, Northeastern Saloon, The Foundry, Cloquet Bar & Lounge, Cloquet Labor Temple Bar & Lounge and The 'Jack hold a limited food sale license and offer items such as pizzas, popcorn and potato chips.
"Those with limited food sale do not qualify for the license, according to the statute," Fritsinger said.
The city has been issuing Sunday on-sale liquor licenses to these establishments since the late 1970s.
"It's a local issue, and our burden, if [the city is] issuing licenses for Sunday without meeting criteria," Fritsinger said. "They are technically illegal and the city takes liability if something happens at those establishments."
None of the councilors or bar owners and managers who attended Tuesday's regular council meeting could recall any such problem resulting in a lawsuit in the past 30 years of selling alcohol on Sundays.
Northeastern owner Burt Whittington questioned the statute requirements at the meeting.
"We sell a lot of ... pizzas that obviously qualify as food, and a restaurant definition is a place that sells nourishment, food," he said. "I don't see the difference between someone ordering a pizza and having a beer at the Northeastern and someone going to Applebee's, ordering no food and drinking in the bar all day."
Jan Bailey of The 'Jack, agreed.
"We don't have to have this particular license from Monday-Saturday, only Sundays," she said. "What is different? We want to be able to continue serving our customers ... this would be one-seventh of our income lost."
Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said he liked the idea of giving the establishments a one-year grace period to figure out how to come into compliance with the state.
"It sounds like the state is confused about the issue," he said.