The Crow Wing County Board on Tuesday approved an on-sale liquor license for Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway.
CBIR now needs approval from the county's Planning Commission for a conditional use permit for the liquor establishment, which would be called the Top Fuel Club. The commission will consider the request June 13.
The establishment is proposed to be located inside the gates of CBIR in the lower level of the existing condominiums.
The county board denied CBIR's request for an off-sale liquor license. CBIR wanted to open an off-sale store in an empty 4,500-square-foot retail office space attached to the condominiums.
On a 4-0 vote, with board chairman John Ferrari abstaining, commissioners denied the request, citing public safety, law enforcement and economics issues.
Commissioner Ed Larsen said he was concerned about the economics of the situation and those people who would be affected.
"I hope this (the liquor license) is secondary to why the race track exists," Larsen said.
Unorganized Territory has six establishments where people can buy off- or on-sale liquor: Prime Rate Liquor near CBIR; Spirits of Nisswa; The Pickle Factory in Nisswa; Mario's on Highway 371 near CBIR, which is closed; Iven's on the Bay on Highway 371; and The Waterfall, also near CBIR on Highway 371.
Scott Hanson, who owns Prime Rate Liquor next to CBIR, said there are plenty of liquor establishments in the area. He said he heard a CBIR official say at the last county board meeting that CBIR is trying to become a more family-oriented establishment.
"The two (liquor and children) don't go together," he said.
Commissioner Terry Sluss said he is concerned about the public's safety and how law enforcement could handle issues such as under-age drinking, since the site would not be open to the public without buying an entry ticket.
Sluss said CBIR is still suffering from 15 years ago when it had problems with alcohol. He then praised CBIR for upgrading facilities. Sluss said later in an interview that CBIR had little law enforcement during race events before Sheriff Dick Ross came on board.
Sluss said the only way to control youths consuming alcohol is not to tempt them by having liquor more available.
Ross said if the off-sale liquor license was approved, the site would be watched closely and any underage drinkers would be arrested and the license would be in jeopardy.
Larsen said an on-sale site has more supervision, while an off-sale establishment is an easier place for people to get alcohol.
Ross said he checked Bill Singleterry, president of Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway who applied for the license, and there was no criminal activity associated with him.
County Attorney Don Ryan said it is a privilege, not a right, when people are given a liquor license.
Chris Robinson, CBIR attorney, said the organization applied for the license at the request of race fans.
"We've addressed all the concerns," said Robinson.
Robinson said they plan to get all the permits they need for the liquor licenses and that law enforcement can come into the race track as a routine visit or undercover to address any issues.
"To deny it only because of economics would be inappropriate," said Robinson. "In this case it wouldn't be competition."
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