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Municipal liquor stores may change

The city of Farmington won't get out of the liquor business anytime soon, but city officials intend to look at other options for the future.

At its June 6 meeting the Farmington City Council approved a plan to downsize its Pilot Knob liquor store by 1,262 square feet. At the same time they approved a fixed, five-year lease at $3 per square foot less than the city had paid in the past. That will lead savings of $72,000 annually.

Mayor Todd Larson said he's not interested in getting out of the liquor business, because liquor sales provide funding for other city operations - funds are transferred to help run the ice arena, outdoor pool and other amenities. The Pilot Knob store is projected to reach about $211,000 in profits for this year. Getting out of the liquor business would mean trying to find another source of income to cover the things liquor sales do now.

"Sales (at the Pilot Knob site) are way ahead right now," Larson said. "I'm happy with it."

Sales are slower at the city's downtown liquor store. The city's lease for that location is up in 2012, and council members are starting to wonder if they would do well to move that store.

Located in Farmington Market Square, the downtown liquor store is tucked back in the northeast corner of the development. Though the name is on the marquee on Elm Street, the business itself isn't visible to passing traffic. Getting in and out of the shopping center's lot is not always convenient, either.

Add to that a high rent every month, and council members are starting to think there might be a better option for the downtown liquor store, though it's not clear yet what that might be.

Long term plan

Farmington park and recreation director Randy Distad has developed a five-year plan to guide council in their decisions regarding the liquor store. Distad oversees liquor operations, and his plan asks council to decide whether they would like to renegotiate a lease in the current downtown location, lease a new location, build and own a new liquor store on another site or renovate an existing building to accommodate downtown liquor sales.

Council members plan to spend some time on the options, Larson said. For now, they know they would like to have a building with about 5,000 square feet available for liquor sales. They know they want it to be in a visible location with easy access. But they still don't know what that location might be.

"We're kind of looking for a spot that meets the 7,500 traffic counts a day. That's going to have a lot to do with it," Larson said. "We're going to explore our options. We didn't limit it to just downtown. We said look along Highway 3, out along (County Road) 50, whatever makes the most sense and makes it the most easy for the people," Larson said.

Interim city administrator/city engineer Kevin Schorzman said council will look over the options during the next few months, with a goal of developing a plan by the fall. If a decision is made by the fall, that should allow enough time to prepare a new location - if that is the way council chooses to go - to be readied in time before the current downtown store lease expires in December, 2012.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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