ssues of supply and demand on liquor licenses continues to be a question for the Grantsburg Village Board, which met on Monday, Sept. 13, and heard both sides of the request from two parties wanting the same lone remaining “Class B” liquor license available in the village.
The background on the demand is strange and complicated, with arguments on both sides presented to the board.
Essentially, the lone license was held prior by Corinne Scheele, for ‘Corinne & Dave’s Pub,’ which is the currently empty building on State Highway 70, most recently known as the ‘The Den.’ The building is owned by Corinne and Dave, but they had sold it several years ago to a party that lost it in foreclosure, and it has currently not been an operating bar/restaurant since before the pandemic, and the duo had to jump through multiple hoops to get the building back and save it last year, before winter claimed the plumbing and other fixtures.
The Den property was nearly sold earlier this year to Mark and Marivel Harmon, who own The Fired-Up Bistro, but were close to buying The Den property. The Harmons had even applied to take over The Den’s liquor license, which expired in July. Corinne and Dave did not apply for the renewal.
However, for reasons unstated, the deal for The Den fell through and the Harmons backed out, instead seeking to build their own restaurant and event center on land they’ve owned for over a decade on State Highway 70, also. Two months ago, they applied instead for the now vacant “Class B” liquor license that was previously held at The Den, but sought it for the new structure they were planning on building.
The village board approved ‘holding’ the license as long as the Harmons can produce state-approved building plans and then break ground on the new building.
However, Corinne and Dave still have a building for sale, and they claim the structure cannot be sold without some assurance of a “Class B” liquor License.
In the meantime, the Harmons reapplied for the vacant license, but for use at their current location, The Fired-Up Bistro, which currently only sells beer and wine.
Corinne and Dave appeared before the village board on Monday with their realtor, Van Murray, who said they were hoping to approve Corinne & Dave’s Pub as the recipient of the vacant license they previously held.
Corinne Scheele said they had several people interested in buying The Den property, but only if it comes with the license.
“If the liquor license doesn’t go with the place, they don’t want it,” Scheele said of a prospective buyer.
“The uncertainty of the liquor license … makes it tough to sell the place,” Murray confirmed. The couple said they had dropped the price of The Den property by $15,000, just to get rid of it.
As village clerk noted, liquor licenses can be transferred between buildings but only by the approved agents, so the Fired-Up Bistro license could be transferred to the as yet built convention center/restaurant, but it would leave The Den property with no option for liquor, due to state limits on licenses on a per capita basis.
The conversation was heated at times, and it was pointed out that if the new Harmon building can seat over 300 people, the whole issue may be moot, as they can apply for an special exception licenses, such as what T-Dawgs has in the village.
“My concern is , the original decision was for a specific building,” stated trustee Kayla Woody. “But now, the current application is for current business (Fired-Up Bistro), if that falls through (The Harmon convention center) that scares me.”
In essence, if the Harmons can use the full liquor license at their current location, but would also be able to transfer it to the new building, if approved and built.
That still leaves The Den property empty and without a license, either way.
Several village trustees had concerns about the previous ‘holding of the licenses’ agreement, and noted that while the Harmons were committing to a big expenditure, they were no longer seeking the license for that building but for their current building.
In the end the issue was still in limbo, and there were several questions remaining about the viability of a new convention center licensing as well as possible eligibility issues with the Harmon property, which was purchased from the village and apparently had timeline stipulations that may affect the overall issue.
Of course, if the Harmon convention center goes up as planned, and if it seats over 300 people, then both parties may be satisfied.
Regardless, the board voted to table the issue to a future date, so they can research several aspects and review the past decisions.
In other village business:
• The board heard from engineer Matt Messina on news that the Grantsburg Airport runway rehabilitation/reconstruction project may be more extensive or require more than they had originally believed, although some of the details were still being discussed, Messina said the difference between a reconstruction and rehabilitation was ‘semantics,’ but may have an effect on requirements beyond what they had budgeted for previously.
Reconstructions usually cost more,” Messina said, noting that they may need to update the airport master plan and other technical documents in the process.
“That pavement has far outlived its useful life,” Messina said. “This rehabilitation would put you in a good place, for a long, long ways out.”
Village president Terry Kucera had his doubts, though, and was concerned that the money they have set aside would not over what is possibly required.
“I think it’s best … to have a few more meetings and flush this all out.”
The board agreed, and voted to table the issue until a later date.
• There were several changes approved for the mid-October festival in Grantsburg that typically takes place at the Fairgrounds but will instead be held downtown this year on Main Street. The board approved a request to close West Madison Avenue for a stretch, to allow vendors and possibly a car or tractor show.
In the end, the board approved the closures, meaning ‘Grantober Fest’ will be back, October 16 downtown.
• Michelle Campeau of the Grantsburg Public Library outlined the boards’ search for a new library director, as the former director has taken a job with the school district.
“Thank you to all the (library) staff for stepping up,” trustee Dianne Barton said.
• The board entertained a lengthy report on the finances from Brandon Willger of Two Rivers Accounting. He pointed out a few changes, discrepancies and ways they are adjusting things, like how they register some of the village funds, including how their tax increment district funds are accounted for.
• The board also approved several expenditures for public works, including for new equipment and upgrades to their Well #3, which is undergoing an extensive reconstruction, due to manganese issues. The manganese’s and well issue will be addressed further in the coming weeks.