It’s possible that a request by downtown Duluth merchants allowing them to serve complimentary beer and wine to customers on special occasions may eventually be granted by the Duluth City Council. In recent months the merchants and city’s Alcohol Review Board have been trying to find a way to allow merchant to legally do this.
The latest recommendations from the ARB come up for discussion at the council’s November work session tonight (Nov. 28). The council will consider placing proposed changes to the city's Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance drafted by the city attorney at the behest of the ARB on the Dec. 12 regular meeting agenda for action. The work session begins at 5:30 p.m. at .
The ARB had initially recommended that the city remove regulating the distribution of alcoholic beverages from its Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance, which would have been a simple way of allowing the businesses to serve complimentary beer and wine to customers. But a check with the State Department of Revenue by the city attorney found that the state would consider giving away alcoholic beverages to be illegal. The city’s ordinance currently regulates sales and distribution. At its last work session, the council sent the matter back to the ARB to come up with alternatives.
At a Nov. 9 meeting, the Alcohol Review Board recommended that the city create a new license that would allow merchants to serve a limited quantity of alcohol for consumption on the premises without obtaining a regular license to sell beer and wine only granted to restaurants in the city. The fee would likely be less than the regular license.
Also, the ARB suggested clarifying the current brown-bagging ordinance to allow a business to close down retail operations and hold a “private party” at its establishment on a limited number of days per year.
In discussions with the ARB, downtown merchants who want to serve complimentary beer and wine to their customers agreed to undergo alcohol pouring training.
The board requested that the city attorney draft proposed ordinance changes to be considered by the council. These changes would apply to all businesses in the city, not just downtown merchants.
The city attorney subsequently drafted a proposed “Ancillary Alcohol Sales License” that would allow a business to sell or serve a patron either two six-ounce glasses of wine per day or one 12-ounce serving of beer/malt beverage per day. The licensee would not have to serve food or qualify as a restaurant, but would be limited by restrictions intended to limit the role that alcohol plays in the overall business. Specifically, alcohol sales cannot be the primary business and may not account for more than 10 percent of gross annual sales. Hours would be limited to current regulations for sale of beer and wine in the city.
The second proposed change would amend the brown-bagging ordinance to clarify that a business is permitted to possess, consume and serve alcohol at a private party in their establishment on four occasions annually. To qualify for the exception, the party would need to be closed to the public, not involve a fee for attendance, not involve any retail or commercial activity and not be designed to encourage or generate business.
In what is anticipated to be a lengthy work session, the council is also expected to discuss the following topics and decide whether to place them on the agenda for the regular Dec. 12 meeting if official action is required:
- Vision 2030 Plan Update
- Tobacco-free parks policy
- Design and construction plans Rogers Bridge Park canoe ramp
- Revised plan for West Lawrenceville street courtyard
- Traffic signal at Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Chattahoochee Drive
- Alternatives for Main Street crosswalks and handicap access
- Proposal to use Old City Hall for Haunted House in 2012
- Roof repair to Red Clay Theatre
The council has called a special meeting at 7:45 p.m. to go into executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters.