No change was made on how long the city of Tomah should hold a liquor license of an establishment that goes out of business.
Tomah City Council discussed the issue on consecutive nights during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting and Tuesday’s regular city council session.
A motion was approved Monday night to create a policy for a class B liquor/beer combination license to be retained by the city if an establishment has ceased operation for a period of 90 days. Then the city would hold the license up to one year to allow the property owner time to find a new tenant or buyer. If there is a case of foreclosure or receivership regarding the premises, the one-year time period would start when the count action has completed.
It passed 7-1, with only alderman Lamont Kiefer dissenting.
However, the same motion failed Tuesday night on a 5-3 vote with aldermen Richard Yarrington, Shawn Zabinsky, Mary Ann Komiskey and Wayne Kling siding with Kiefer.
Kiefer said he voted no because he believes the city already has a working process.
“I think we’re handling it absolutely appropriately by looking at each individual situation and seeing how it fits into our city plan,” he said.
The question over how long to hold a liquor license arose at the July 9-10 meetings when Dorothy Walker, owner of the former Sportsman’s Bar property, and her son, Bob Walker, asked the council for time to work on the recovery of the building and subsequent court activity and to retain the license. The council agreed to the request. However, Jolene Powell is opening a new establishment, Vino Anjo, and is seeking to acquire that license. She was advised that she would be the first in line if a license comes available.
Yarrington said he was unsure about who liquor licenses belong to. If the business operator and the property owner are the same it’s clear, but Yarrington said it’s less clear if the operator is leasing the property or business.
The city’s corporation counsel, Penny Precour, said there’s no clear answer but added that liquor licenses are tied to the location or building.
“That’s what’s difficult about setting in stone policies like this, because there are so many different circumstances that happen,” she said. “We still need to reason in terms of how are we doing this. But there’s various circumstances that happen in the city that come into play ... Is it an owner that sells a building along with the business? It makes it so much more valuable to have that license than not.”
Alderman Travis Scholze said if the business goes out of operation, the license belongs to the city.
“After that 90-day period, the license would go back to the city and we would then hold it,” she said. “So it’s not tied to that person that owns the building; we’re just making it formal that we would then for one year hold that license for that location and give them time to see or re-lease that property. I don’t think it’s relevant who that license belongs to after that 90 days; it belongs to the city ... we’re just saying that we’re going to hold it and give that property owner a chance to sell.”