MINOCQUA -- The Minocqua Town Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to buy a reserve Class B liquor license offered by the Town of Fifield for $10,000.
Town Clerk Robyn Haggart says a new state law allows a municipality to sell up to three such licenses to another municipality located within two miles of it. Due to resorts closing in Fifield over the years and for other reasons, that town has 16 unused Class B licenses, she said.
Wisconsin imposes a quota on the number of “Class B” establishments (taverns, bars, restaurants licensed to sell distilled spirits for on-premises consumption) in each municipality, based “roughly” on population. The Fifield town board approved the license sale to Minocqua at its Nov. 2 meeting.
Supervisor John Thompson wanted to snap up all three licenses, saying the town needs them for business growth, even it takes a while to find the right applicant, including perhaps a large franchiser. Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings were mentioned during the discussion. “Maybe they won’t get issued for ten years,” Thompson said of the licenses. “It’s an investment. So you don’t get paid a dividend on an investment the next day or in a year. You save them and use them to attract something or someone.” “We have lost some fine restaurants since I’ve been here,” said Supervisor Sue Heil, agreeing to the purchase. Supervisor Bill Fried also favored the purchase.
The measure drew ‘no’ votes from Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim and supervisor Bill Stengl. But Hartzheim acknowledged to the board there would be “a frenzy” of applicants for it. “You are going to have multiple people presenting you with proposals and ideas, telling you why they need that license,” he told the board. “You are going to have to tell a lot of people ‘no’ if you are holding out for the big Kahuna, or whatever. You are going to be telling local people ‘no’; (the) franchise guy hauling bags of money out of our town ‘yes.’ That’s just reality.” Hartzheim said afterward that there would be opportunities later to buy a Fifield license, and that it wasn’t in this year’s budget. Listening in, Heil interjected: “When opportunities come along, you gotta grab them.”
The town can issue the new license to any applicant at its discretion, as long as it’s not discriminatory. The town could hold the license for an extended period, waiting for that “right” applicant, or it could advertise for proposals and make a selection then. The successful applicant will have to pay $10,000 for the license, in essence offsetting the town’s cost.