Residents voiced their opposition Monday to the possibility of Brainerd issuing additional liquor licenses.
The residents voiced their opinions during a public hearing before the Brainerd City Council regarding the possibility of a referendum in November to allow more liquor licenses.
All of the residents who voiced their concerns spoke against the addition of liquor licenses to the city. Concerns ranged from creating more drinkers to creating more crime or causing death.
"If you grant more liquor licenses, you might as well line people up and shoot them," said Mike Heintzeman, Nisswa. As a former firefighter before moving to the Brainerd area, he said he had seen enough alcohol-related deaths and believed more liquor licenses would lead to more death. "To put more bars out there is like putting a loaded gun in a toddler's hand. Absolutely against it for that reason."
"I'm not proud of the type of bars we have here, and having more bars is a big concern," said Carol Kurtzman, Brainerd.
Bar owners, too, were against the idea of issuing additional licenses.
"I totally oppose it," said Steve Shepherd, owner of Shep's on 6th. "Competition is already tough and we have just about every variety of bar now."
One of the reasons the Brainerd City Council wanted public opinion on issuing additional liquor licenses was to potentially accommodate restaurants like Applebee's and Red Lobster, restaurants that serve food as well as liquor. Neither restaurant has announced plans to build in Brainerd.
But in issuing more licenses Brainerd can't discriminate against what kind of establishments apply, meaning if they meet city requirements more bars could be opened if more licenses are issued.
Under state law, the total number of licenses for all cities between the population of 10,000 and 20,000 is 12. All of Brainerd's licenses have been issued and one resident thought even those should be denied.
"If we listen to our heart and not our heads, each one of us knows there is enough liquor in the city," said Valerie Specht, Brainerd. "Not one good thing has ever come out of alcohol. The best vote we could do is vote to close down what's here."
The city council tabled the issue for one month to get more information and feedback from the public.
If the city were to issue additional liquor licenses, it would have to be approved by Brainerd residents in November's election. If the issue gets to that point, Minnesota statute requires the question can be asked one of two ways on the ballot: either to allow a set number or to allow the council to issue however many it sees fit.
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