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Local

Morrison puts a cap on some liquor licenses amid concerns over gambling

MORRISON – In an effort to curtail the growth of video gambling, the city has frozen the number of liquor licenses available in three categories.

The City Council approved the liquor code changes Tuesday. The licenses were capped in the C, D and F/F1 categories, which affect bars, restaurants and bowling alleys.

There are seven licenses available for establishments serving alcohol on their premises and the amendment caps the numbers at those levels.

“This affects the ‘pour’ licenses – there are four in the bars category, two for restaurants, and one in the bowling alley,” Mayor Everett Pannier said.

The packaged liquor category, primarily for grocery and convenience stores, is not affected.

The mayor, who also serves as the city’s liquor commission, said the action was initiated by the council.

“This is the result of complaints the council was hearing from its constituents who believe the city doesn’t need more gambling,” Pannier said.

All of the voting council members supported the license freeze; First Ward Alderman Kenneth Mahaffey abstained.

While the cap doesn’t prohibit the issuance of more liquor licenses in those categories, it makes it more difficult. Applicants must come before the council on a case-by-case basis, and it will be decided whether to change the number of licenses.

“If the right business comes around in the right location, the liquor code can be amended,” City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen said. “I think it does send a message about how the city feels about the growth of video gambling.

Video gambling was instituted by state statute, and its ambiguity gives cities few options for controlling its growth. For municipalities that are not home rule, a complete ban on video gambling could put them in dangerous legal territory. The license freeze also was discussed with the city attorney.

“The aldermen had that discussion with Tim Zollinger, and they felt comfortable moving ahead with it,” Dykhuizen said.

Gambling activity seems to be finally leveling off in Morrison, he said. The city’s share in 2016 was $35,439.70 from 25 machines in five locations. This year there are 27 terminals at six sites.

Morrison, like most cities, puts its share of gambling revenue into its general fund. In the past, it has often been used for capital projects such as sidewalk and facade improvements.

Sterling also recently capped its liquor licensing group in which most of the video gambling activity falls. That group has 32 available licenses, and all of them have been awarded. The city will also evaluate future requests on a case-by-case basis.

LIQUOR CODE AMENDMENTS

4-91 – Limitation on the number of Class C, D, and F Licenses - approved Oct. 10, 2017

• No more than four Class C liquor licenses shall be issued by the city.

• No more than two Class D liquor licenses shall be issued by the city.

• No more than one Class F/F1 liquor license shall be issued by the city.

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