Around seven years after the Crookston City Council - with Mayor Dave Genereux breaking the tie with a vote against – narrowly defeated a push to give Crookston bars the option of remaining open until 2 a.m., the council's Ways & Means Committee Monday evening voted 6-2 in favor of giving local drinking establishments the option to remain open an hour later than they currently do.
The change will go through the ordinance process, meaning the modified ordinance will likely get its first and second readings at council meetings two weeks apart later this summer. Once it gets its second reading, the council will vote on it.
The vote Monday evening had council members Tom Jorgens, Dana Johnson, Hector Santellanes, Dale Stainbrook and Wayne Melbye in favor, along with Mayor Genereux. Council members Tom Vedbraaten and Bob Quanrud voted against. There was no council vote from ward 3; Keith Mykleseth has resigned and, although Gary Willhite was officially appointed by the council Monday evening, he won't officially take his seat on the council until July. He attended the committee meeting and participated in the discussion, but did not vote.
So what's changed in the past seven years or so? Not much, really. Making the request this time around for a later bar closing option was Jake Fee, manager of the Crookston Eagles. In need of additional revenue, he said the club would like the option of remaining open on nights when there are dances and other events that bring in large numbers.
As he did seven years ago, Police Chief Tim Motherway researched other area cities with a 2 a.m. bar closing and, similar to his report seven years ago, he said Monday that police chiefs in those cities report no significant problems. He did say he was told that in many cities who approved the 2 a.m. option very soon after the Minnesota law changed in 2004 to allow it, the vast majority of drinking establishments in those cities are rarely, if ever open until 2 a.m.
A bar wanting the 2 a.m. closing option will have to pay a fee to the state ranging from $300 a year to $1,000, depending on its gross on-sale alcohol sales the previous year. Finance Director Angel Hoeffner said a $100 fee to the city would also likely be required.
Vedbraaten, citing binge drinking in Grand Forks that's made "national news," questioned the wisdom of giving people in Crookston more time to drink. He also expressed concern over Crookston being a "college town" and college students who work at bars not getting home from work until very late when they have class in the morning. To that, Vedbraaten was told by some around the table, it's highly unlikely that any bar in Crookston would be open until 2 a.m. on any night during the work week. Public Works Director Pat Kelly added that it's not the council's mission to delve into how businesses are managed. "I don't think the council should be legislating how long people work," Kelly said. "Ampride is open 24 hours a day; I bet there are some young people who have to work pretty late because of that."
Page 2 of 2 - "There's a lot of things that if your self-righteous you don't think people should do," Melbye added. "But that's not our position here."
Quanrud said he was still on the police force when the issue arose the last time, and that he didn't see the benefit of a later bar closing time then, and he still doesn't. Citing the lack of an outcry from other drinking establishments, he said a 1 a.m. bar closing works just fine.
Crookston resident Dennis Koch attended the meeting and sided with giving businesses the option. "If they want to pay the fee, whatever it may be, let them do it," he said.
Stainbrook made the motion and Santellanes seconded it.