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City approves reimbursements, liquor license fee waivers

Photo by Deb Gau After an executive order from Walz last week, local businesses were seeking more relief from the city. The Marshall City Council opted to reduce some of the on-sale liquor license fees for the businesses in 2020, and to waive the fees for the first half of 2021.

MARSHALL — Bars and restaurants closed to indoor service for the second time this year, and it’s still not certain whether they’ll be able to reopen after a four-week shutdown. Marshall city council members agreed they needed to help local businesses as best they could.

On Tuesday, council members approved motions to reimburse some of local bars and restaurants’ liquor license fees for 2020, and to waive the fees for the first half of 2021.

“There’s nothing normal about this year,” said city council member Steven Meister. “I think this is the right thing to do right now.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Marshall City Clerk Kyle Box said liquor license holders approached the city earlier this fall and requested relief on their fees. The bar and restaurant industry has been struggling this year with limited business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city already took action to help bars and restaurants with on-sale liquor licenses earlier this year. In May, council members voted to hold off on collecting fees for the second half of 2020, as well as prorating the license fees.

City fees for an on-sale intoxicating liquor license are $3,000 a year. Sunday on-sale licenses are $200 a year, wine licenses are $600 a year, 3.2 on-sale licenses are $250 a year, and taproom licenses are $500 a year. Box said the city set its license fees after looking at rates in comparable Minnesota cities. The state of Minnesota classifies taprooms attached to a brewery differently from bars and restaurants, he said.

Box said city staff was proposing to help Marshall businesses by reimbursing license fees for a four-week period, as well as reducing the fees by 50% for six months. Additionally, the city was proposing to reduce on-sale liquor license fees by 50% in 2021.

While council members said they were in support of helping local businesses, some said they didn’t think the city’s proposals went far enough. Council member James Lozinski pointed out that it wasn’t certain that bars and restaurant service would open back up in four weeks. Lozinski said that the reimbursement for part of the 2020 fees should be calculated by the day, in case the closures are extended.

“I’m really in support of doing this,” said council member Craig Schafer. “There’s a lot of our businesses that are really suffering through this.”

Council member Russ Labat said more needed to be done. Hospitality businesses in Marshall have suffered for longer than just 2020, with the fallout from thefts from the convention and visitors bureau, he said. Labat said he supported waiving all on-sale liquor license fees for 2021 as well.

Lozinski moved to waive the on-sale license fees for the first six months of 2021, and readdress the issue in May. The motion passed unanimously.

Lozinski also moved that the reimbursements of on-sale license fees for 2020 be calculated through Dec. 31, instead of just four weeks. That motion passed unanimously, as well.

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