Alcohol Changes Finally Passed by Duluth Council

This is the first comprehensive overhaul of the city's Alcohol Beverage Ordinance in 20 years.

The Duluth City Council Monday (Aug. 13) passed the first comprehensive overhaul of the city’s Alcohol Beverage Ordinance in 20 years with little fanfare. The city council had been discussing and revising the potential changes, including a controversial proposal that would have allowed outdoor drinking in a downtown hospitality zone on weekends, for several months.

Council members arrived at final versions of the amendments at an Aug. 6 work session. It was ito remove allowing outdoor consumption of alcoholic beverages purchased from restaurants in the downtown “red zone” on Fridays and Saturdays from consideration.

Outdoor consumption in the two-block red zone near the Duluth Town Green will continue to be allowed for about a dozen city-sponsored, alcohol-sanctioned events a year.

The vote last night on the amendments was 4-0. Councilwoman Marsha Bomar recused herself from the vote since she still has a financial interest in Chocolate Perks, which she recently sold. She financed the sale. The new owner plans to apply for a license to sell beer and wine. Bomar held a license but did not reapply for it since she planned to sell the café/coffee shop.

Other changes that were approved by the city council included:

  • Creating a new category of taverns that could operate only downtown. Taverns would not be required to serve food. A 1-1 ratio of restaurants to taverns would be allowed. There are four restaurants located downtown, which would presently allow three taverns.
  • Allowing growler shops downtown to sell or give away beer samples.
  • Permitting wine, beer and malt beverage tastings in grocery stores at a designated counter. Stores would be allowed to give away or sell samples.
  • Allowing overflow restaurant patrons to take their cocktails, beer and wine outside in designated areas while they wait for tables. This would apply citywide. Restaurants would pay $50 for a permit to allow this practice.
  • Eliminating the cap on the number of package stores in Duluth. Based on population, there are currently five package stores selling distilled spirits in the city.
  • Prohibiting karaoke bars in the city from having private booths and locked rooms. Karaoke and live entertainment would have to take place in open areas, a requirement that would also apply to other establishments with licenses allowing on-premises liquor consumption.
  • Establishing a $15 fee for caterers and vendors to apply for permits to sell beer and wine at events in the city.

The proposed changes were the result of a comprehensive review of the Alcohol Beverage Ordinance by city staff. The city’s Alcohol Review Board forwarded the potential changes with their revisions to the city council for action.

Some of the changes support the council’s vision of creating a downtown entertainment district.

The changes were effective wth adoption. Letters are being sent to alcoholic beverage license holders affected by the changes, Duluth City Clerk Teresa Lynn said.


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