Council turns down Generations liquor license request

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Generations center failed in its bid to obtain the city’s last available liquor license Tuesday.

The Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition’s application for a class B liquor license was turned down by the City Council by a vote of 5-3.

“Once you approve the license and hand it to them, they can do as they darn well please,” Alderman David Williams, the council’s liaison to the PIC board of directors, commented. “This present group will stay true to what they’ve said, but a future board could change things.”

The major sticking point for Williams and other council members was the colocation of child care and church groups in the Generations building where the license would have been granted.

Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition Director Joann Van Horn Wieland assured the council that the license would only be utilized for wedding receptions, reunions, businesses meetings and other gatherings during hours when the center is not being used by day care, children’s groups, churches or other similar events.

“We’ve developed a policy on alcohol use (at Generations) and feel you should be able to trust us,” she told the council.

That would include any liquor being locked away securely during weekdays when children are present in the building, Wieland continued.

“Every single day some kind of magical thing goes on in that building,” Wieland said of the multi-generational center. “Last year we turned away three class reunions and two weddings because of (the lack of a) liquor license.”

She said being able to host such events at the building would bring visitors to Plymouth who would stay in the city and spend money at other businesses as well.

Wieland said PIC is looking for such business to support its ongoing budget without seeking financial support from the city or local residents and businesses.

She also noted that those renting the building now for functions can bring in their own alcohol and serve anyone. “We believe having a license would add some control and monitoring,” Wieland pointed out.

City Attorney Crystal Fieber noted that state law prohibits a liquor license holder within 300 feet of a school, but that can be waived by the city.

She added there are a number of exceptions in state statutes to that restriction, but the Generations center does not fall under any of them, as the Plymouth Arts Center – which holds a liquor license – does.

Williams said he felt the issuing of licenses to the PAC and to the Eagles Club, “was a mistake.”

Alderman Shawn Marcom expressed his concern that Generations is not a business that would be serving to the general public, like bars and taverns.

“This license belongs to the whole city and should be available for the entire city to use,” he stated.

Alderman Jim Sedlacek agreed, noting that PIC would only be using the license one or two days a week. “We’ve issued licenses already that aren’t being used fully and I’m afraid of issuing another one that is not being used fully.”

Wieland read a letter supporting PIC’s license application from several downtown bar owners, stating that it would not take away from their business and could bring new customers into the city.

“If this license is not issued you’re doing nothing for this community, you’re not providing any support for Generations,” Wieland told the council.

“I have to admit that the bars I talked to did not have any objections,” to issuing the license, Williams conceded. “The objections were from other people who felt we did not need another tax-exempt business holding a liquor license.”

“I’ve tossed back and forth on this one,” Council President Charles Hansen admitted.

“I believe this council could waive the fact that this is a day care center or a church,” and issue the license, Hansen stated. “I’ve talked to the police chief and he doesn’t see a big risk factor here. But this is a private business using this that’s not open to the public and I wonder, is there a better use of this license. I struggled back and forth on it, but I have confidence the Generations board will make the proper decisions.”

In the end, Hansen voted in favor of granting the license, along with Jack Fernsler and Jim Faller. Voting against issuing the license were Marcom, Sedlacek, Williams, Greg Hildebrand and John Nelson.

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