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One more test for liquor in Lakeside

Even if Lakeside and Lester Park residents approve a non-binding referendum Tuesday endorsing liquor sales in their neighborhoods, the candidates vying to represent that area say they might not support changing the state law.

Even if Lakeside and Lester Park residents approve a non-binding referendum Tuesday endorsing liquor sales in their neighborhoods, the candidates vying to represent that area say they might not support changing the state law.

Tom Huntley, a DFLer running for re-election against Republican Ryan Stauber for the House 7A seat, said he would look for a "significant majority" of at least two-thirds to support the liquor ban repeal.

If Huntley is re-elected and the referendum passes, he'd be the representative expected to introduce legislation to repeal the ban. A House member other than Huntley could introduce the legislation, but passing it would be difficult without support from the District 7A representative.

Stauber said he would want the referendum to be passed by "a very wide margin" to support introducing language to repeal the ban, saying 55-45 would be enough. A simple majority of 51-49 wouldn't adequately represent the views of the voters in that neighborhood, Stauber said.

"I'm not a huge fan of simple majorities," he said. "I don't believe they're true."

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The referendum, if passed, would go to the Duluth City Council, which probably would ask legislators to change the law, council President Roger Reinert said.

Todd Fedora, the 1st District city councilor who represents Lakeside-Lester Park, said he hoped local legislators would support the referendum if it passes, no matter how small the margin.

"For as long as I've been studying government, it's been my understanding that simply majority rules," he said.

Passion on the issue seems to have died down since last year, when the City Council voted 6-3 to recommend repealing the ban in chambers packed with Lakeside residents. Mayor Herb Bergson vetoed the measure, the council overrode the veto, and new Mayor Don Ness asked the City Council to put the issue before Lakeside voters.

John McAllister, a supporter of the neighborhood liquor ban, said opposition to the ban "has been pretty quiet."

Supporters of the ban on liquor sales waged a phone campaign urging about 150 residents to vote against repealing the state law, McAllister said. He and other ban supporters say they want to keep their neighborhood as it is and worry about bars and disruptions to public safety they can bring.

People who want to overturn the ban say residents should be able to walk to neighborhood bars and restaurants that serve liquor, and that businesses would benefit.

State law has prohibited alcohol sales in Lakeside-Lester Park for more than 100 years.

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