Applicants vie for city's new liquor license
A competition is under way for a new Class B liquor and beer license that became available when the city of Hudson's estimated population reached 11,353.
The City Council on Nov. 21 met the partners in two Minnesota restaurants who have applied for the license, but postponed consideration of their application after learning that another party also had applied for the license earlier in the day.
The Municipal Code allows the city to issue one Class B liquor license for every 750 residents or fraction thereof. Consequently, when the state announced that the city's estimated population for 2005 was 11,353, its quota of liquor licenses increased to 16.
Fifteen Hudson restaurants and bars now hold licenses to serve both mixed drinks and beer.
On Oct. 20, the city published a notice in the Star-Observer about the availability of another Class B liquor license, as well as an additional Class B beer license and one more Class C wine license.
The owners of La Fiesta Mexicana restaurants in Red Wing, Minn., and Rochester, Minn., applied for the available "reserve" liquor license on Nov. 2. They want to open a Mexican restaurant in the Plaza 94 shopping center space formerly occupied by the Happy China Garden restaurant.
Reserve liquor licenses were created by a 1997 state law that grandfathered existing licenses and restricted the number of new reserve licenses to population growth. The law requires municipalities to charge a $10,000 issuing fee for reserve licenses.
In Hudson, establishments also pay an annual $500 fee for a Class B liquor license.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin lobbied for creation of the reserve licenses in order to limit competition and protect the value of its members' businesses.
Jorge Solis of Rochester briefly addressed the council's Finance Committee about his plans for a Hudson restaurant in a committee meeting that immediately preceded the Nov. 21 council meeting.
Solis is president of the corporation that owns and operates the two existing La Fiesta Mexicana restaurants. He was accompanied by Tanquilino Fuentes of Red Wing, the company's vice president.
The 47-year-old Solis said he has been in the restaurant business his entire life.
According to the license application, the La Fiesta Mexicana restaurant in Rochester opened in 1994, and the one in Red Wing, in 1995.
Solis described the businesses as family-style restaurants and said the one in Hudson would be, too. He said the restaurant would need a liquor license because some people like to have a margarita with their meal.
The meals, he said, would be prepared from scratch.
Responding to questions from committee members, Solis said the restaurant would employ 20 to 25 people, 10 of them full-time. It would seat about 130 people, he said.
Mayor Jack Breault, chairman of the Finance Committee, asked City Clerk Nancy Norvold to inform committee members about the other license application she had received earlier in the day.
Norvold said the application was from Dennis Lovold.
Lovold is general manager of the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Hudson, but Norvold said he applied for the license as an individual.
Lovold is seeking a liquor license for the Perkins Restaurant building at 805 Crest View Drive. Perkins will be moving to a new building in the Ban Tara commercial development on Carmichael Road south of Stageline Road this winter.
Lovold didn't indicate what his plans are for the existing Perkins building, Norvold said. She said it was her belief that Lovold was making an offer to purchase the building, contingent on his ability to obtain a liquor license.
Lovold had said he wouldn't be able to attend a City Council meeting until January, Norvold said.
Mayor Breault asked City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick for advice on how to proceed, including the criteria the council is required to consider in deciding whether to issue a license.
Munkittrick noted that the Municipal Code identifies: (1) employment and job creation, (2) tax base expansion, (3) parking and the availability of city services, (4) adverse impacts on neighbors and (5) "other relevant matters" as things to consider in issuing liquor licenses.
The city isn't required to issue a license just because it is available.
Upon hearing the criteria to consider, Breault recommended postponing a decision on the application from La Fiesta Mexicana until the council learns more about Lovold's plans.
Finance Committee members Scot O'Malley, Mike Laatsch and Dennis O'Connell - and later the full council - agreed with Breault.
Alderman O'Connell suggested that Lovold be asked to attend or send a representative to the Dec. 5 City Council meeting.
Breault indicated that the council would take up at least the La Fiesta Mexicana application at the Dec. 5 meeting.
Two other Hudson businesses were granted new licenses to serve alcoholic beverages.
Three Hats Coffee, 1615 Maxwell Drive, was issued Class B beer and Class C wine licenses.
Vida Spasic, owner of the new coffee shop and European-style café, said customers have asked for beer and wine to go with the sandwiches and salads she serves. She said she plans to add a grill to the café in order to serve warm sandwiches, too.
Spasic was told that, under the Municipal Code, her beer and wine sales can't exceed 50 percent of the business's income.
Three Hats Coffee is in the Hudson Crossing commercial development, located on the city's south side at the southeast corner of Carmichael and Hanley roads.
The council also approved Class B beer and Class C wine licenses for Bricks Neapolitan Pizza, contingent on owner Kevin Bordenave obtaining a lease to provide off-street parking for the downtown pizzeria he plans to open.
Council members postponed issuing Bordenave the licenses at their Nov. 7 meeting because they believed the old train depot property behind First National Bank that he said he would be renting for parking was already leased to the Twisted Grille restaurant.
On Nov. 21, Community Development Director Dennis Darnold reported that while there was talk about the Twisted Grille leasing the depot property when it was seeking a liquor license, a lease for that property was never signed.
Twisted Grille owner Endre Govrik did lease the Gagnon Construction lot at the corner of Walnut and First streets for off-street parking.
Munkittrick said the council hadn't made the Twisted Grille's liquor license contingent on providing off-street parking.
Randy Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org