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Perham leaders stand up against county alcohol permit

Perham city leaders voiced their opinions Monday evening against a proposed private liquor license in Pelican Rapids.

The county board heard testimony from owners of Dunvilla, LLC regarding a request for an "Off Sale Intoxicating Liquor License for an Exclusive Liquor Store" at its location in Pelican Rapids.

Lisa Johnson spoke on behalf of Dunvilla, providing county board members with a presentation aimed at convincing officials that the proposed liquor store would not hurt sales at the city owned store.

One by one, city officials stood up and voiced opposition to the project - largely because of the precedent it could set in the county.

Perham Mayor Tim Meehl was one of those voices to sound off.

"If you approve this, you open up the flood gates," Meehl said to the board.

Meehl cited the importance of city owned liquor stores when it comes to the operating budget. Without the liquor store, Meehl said taxes would have to be raised by 14 percent throughout the city, though he acknowledged that a hypothetical competing liquor store would not take away all of the store's business.

Leaders in Pelican Rapids, Elizabeth, Erhard and Vergas echoed his sentiment.

Perham City Manager Kelcey Klemm questioned the county's role in the situation. He argued that cities have a better idea of what they need to fund.

"Cities are charged to provide a lot of services," Klemm said, referring to libraries, community centers and other facilities. "If we don't have liquor funds, I don't know if we'll provide these services."

Klemm cited privately owned liquor stores in Ottertail and Richville as examples of areas where the cities have decided not to operate a government-run liquor store.

Becker County's current liquor situation was also brought up. With a city owned store competing with a liquor store outside of town, Klemm said the city of Detroit Lakes has only seen a 1 percent increase in business over the year.

That's a troubling figure for Klemm, who said that, in the alcohol business, if you're not growing, you're dying.

Not everyone was on the side of the cities. Pelican Rapids residents also spoke of the need to free up the monopoly and allow for business growth.

The county board had not decided when it would vote on this proposal by the time this issue went to press.