WALKER -- Block 25 Committee's legal victory over the city of Walker to prevent the city from locating the municipal liquor store in the conservation building next door to Cass County Jail may be short-lived.
If Gov. Tim Pawlenty signs the 0.08 liquor bill, he will approve in that bill a legislative change eliminating the state law clause District Court Judge Jay D. Mondry cited when he issued a summary judgment May 11 prohibiting the city of Walker from moving its liquor store to the conservation building.
The city spent about $740,000 in the last year to restore the 1930s log building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It now houses, in addition to the municipal liquor store, the city hall, police department, motor vehicle registration, ambulance services and chamber of commerce.
It sits on Block 25 of the original plat of the city of Walker, sandwiched between the county-owned Cass County Historical Museum and Cass County Courthouse and Jail.
Block 25 Committee, an organization of Walker residential and commercial taxpayers, filed suit last year against the city objecting to removal of a wildlife and Indian artifacts museum from the conservation building and the use, instead, of the structure for the city's municipal liquor store.
The committee cited this clause in state law "it is a gross misdemeanor to sell or otherwise dispose of intoxicating liquor within 1,000 feet of a state hospital, training school, reformatory, prison or other institution under the supervision and control, in whole or in part, of the commissioner of human services or the commissioner of corrections."
The committee successfully argued before Mondry that, because the Cass County Jail is within 300 feet of the new liquor store location and because the commissioner of corrections has licensing, inspection and regulation powers over local county jails, the corrections commissioner does have "supervision and control" over jails.
Mondry ruled relocating Walker Municipal Liquor Store to the conservation building would be an illegal use of the property.
The city had moved its municipal liquor store from a location about four blocks away to the former museum area of the conservation building in April, opened for business May 3 and continues to operate there.
Some of the wildlife museum displays remain as featured attractions in the new liquor store, while the Indian artifacts and additional wildlife displays have been moved next door to the Cass County Historical Museum.
Paul Reuvers, attorney for the city in this case, said, in an interview May 20, he filed on behalf of the city an appeal to Minnesota Court of Appeals and a request for a stay of Mondry's order pending appeal. The hearing on the stay is scheduled for June 3 in district court.
Reuvers also said the new state law eliminating from state statutes the words "other institutions under the supervision and control, in whole or in part, of the commissioner of ... corrections" has the effect of negating Mondry's interpretation of that clause and the order to the city prohibiting the liquor store at its new location.
The section of law Mondry cited will no longer exist if Pawlenty signs this year's liquor bill into law, Reuvers said.
If Mondry's interpretation of the expected-to-be-eliminated clause is appealed through higher courts and let stand, Reuvers said it could impact many cities in the state, because there are bars within 1,000 feet of county jails and other local corrections facilities in most Minnesota cities where these facilities are located.
In fact, he said, there is a juvenile facility in Minneapolis within 1,000 feet of the Metrodome where alcoholic beverages are sold.
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