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Council approves liquor at the Bistro

The Wadena City Council did not let permit failures for awning and sign additions at the building that houses An Open Book and Harvest Thyme Bistro interfere with its approval of wine and beer licenses for the Bistro.

The licenses appeared to be on their way to a routine rubber stamping by the council after City Administrator Brad Swenson gave his recommendation and Police Chief Bruce Uselman said everything seems to be in order when Planning and Zoning Director Byron Larson raised concern over an ordinance violation.

"I don't believe we can issue this permit at this time," Larson said.

He said that city ordinance requires all permits and licenses be up to date before the city can issue another permit. That building has installed three awnings and three signs, for which he has not received any applications for sign permits or land use and zoning permits, Larson said.

Mayor Wayne Wolden asked Bistro owners Derek and Shari Olson if they had a response.

Shari said that Dave Evert, the building owner, was supposed to take care of any permits. She assumed he had followed through with it. The Bistro leases space at the building.

Larson said he told Evert he would need permits after Evert contacted him about the awning and signs.

"Historically this building has been a problem with permits," Larson said.

Wolden amended his motion approving the licenses to require that permits be paid for and issued.

Shari said the Bistro shouldn't be punished for what has happened at the building in the past.

"On our behalf we weren't always ... a part of that building," she said. "We've only been there six months."

They will make sure the permits are taken care of, she said, they just weren't aware they hadn't been. The Olsons worked with the awning company and Shari checked the city's website to make sure the dimensions of the awning were within city limits.

Councilman Don Niles asked what impact a delay in the liquor licenses would have on their business.

Shari said the impact would not be huge. They have waited awhile to get one to make sure they could support it, she said.

The Bistro was hoping to offer alchohol on the menu during the All-School Reunion, Shari said. This is the Bistro's first summer and they are finding business is slower than when they first opened last fall.

Niles said that subdivision 2 of the ordinance Larson cited says the section does not apply if a person or entity has provided sufficient safeguards to assure payment of debts and compliance with city requirement within a reasonable time or if the section will result in significant hardship to the person or entity through no fault of their own.

"I think with the All-School Reunion coming up that there's a real opportunity for business there," Niles said.

He would hate to see the Olsons, as new members of the community who are really contributing in terms of their restaurant services, affected by the owner's lapse, he said.

"I think we have enforcement mechanisms against the owner of the building that I'd like to see pursued," Niles said.

Larson said the lack of permits just came to his attention the Tuesday afternoon of the council meeting.

"I didn't realize [the] new awnings were up until today," he said.

This issue just came to her attention right now, Shari said.

Wolden said he had heard enough to remove his amendment to the original motion. The council approved the licenses contingent upon the receipt of changes to their insurance specifying the new liability.

He appreciates Larson bringing the ordinance violation to the council, Wolden said, but he agrees with Niles. Withholding the liquor licenses would be "holding these guys hostage" for something they tried to do due diligence on, he said. It is not their fault that the building owner reneged on his responsibility.

Larson said he will agree with that, while reiterating his point that, historically, the building owner has been a problem.