Committee looks to tighten license revocation language

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Retention of a retail liquor license should require a minimum amount of retail sales to the public.

That was the conclusion of the Ad Hoc Liquor License Ordinance Committee Tuesday and they recommended that the city strengthen that language in the ordinance.

At issue was a provision that any tavern license holder who does not do business at least 150 days a year is subject to having the license revoked.

The ordinance directs that holders of those licenses (limited by state law) “shall cause such business described in such license to be operated on the premises described in such license for at least 105 days during the terms of such license,” or else be considered an abandoned license.

Committee members debated whether the language was clear and specific enough or should be defined in greater detail.

“When we say 150 days, does that mean open eight hours a day or three minutes a day,” Alderman Charles Hansen asked.

“I think it’s more than just three minutes to go in the door, check the thermostat and then lock the door. That’s not being open,” Mayor Donald Pohlman commented.

Committee members pointed out that the ordinance language requires “business … to be operated on the premises,” which would preclude that scenario.

“To me, a day is a 24-hour period, and as long as you’re open doing business during that 24-hour period, that’s all right with me,” City Administrator Brian Yerges commented.

Committee member Pat Campbell, owner of the Depot restaurant and a tavern license holder, then pointed out that his restaurant is not open eight hours a day, which is true of other restaurants that hold licenses as well.

“I don’t know if we want to put a restriction on somebody new,” to be open at least eight hours a day, committee member Sue Kaiser said. “I’m not ready to say it has to be a year-round business as much as it has to have a showing of economic benefit to the community.”

“One-hundred fifty days seems like a good number of days. My thinking is we should leave it as such rather than regulate hours,” Hansen responded.

Some on the committee questioned whether the 150-day rule would apply to license holders such as the Plymouth Arts Center.

Yerges pointed out that the state statutes which govern local tavern ordinance rules exempt performing arts centers from many of the requirements of license holders, though he couldn’t say whether that included any local abandonment rules.

The discussion then turned to the issue of what constituted business and if the ordinance should spell out that it means selling to the public.

Yerges noted that the state law says the license is for selling to the public and further that selling solely to holders of the license – that is, members of a club or organization holding the license – does not qualify as selling to the public.

Discussion then ensued on the status of the liquor license issued to the Eagles Club, which several committee members noted is not regularly open to the public. They expressed doubt that the club would meet the 150-day requirement.

“We have to have everybody prove they’re open 150 days. We have to apply this across the board and have to make sure the rules apply to everybody,” Hansen noted.

Pohlman suggested that applicants for a license renewal – which will take place July 1 – could be required to attest that they were open to the public at least 150 days during the previous year. They would have to be able to provide proof of that if requested, he added.

The committee recommended that the language in the license abandonment section of the city’s liquor ordinance be clarified to emphasize those points.

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