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New at Grand Forks Council: Dance halls, liquor licenses, and an interim fire chief

Grand Forks City Hall (Herald photo/Sam Easter)

When's the last time you went to a Grand Forks junk dealer? City leaders think it's been long enough that the licensing needed to operate one -- and a slew of other antiquated businesses -- is out of date.

The City Council voted 6-0 on Monday evening to repeal city licensing rules for dance halls, amusement centers, public roller rinks and "hide and junk dealers," with city documents outlining the repeal explaining that none of the licenses is relevant anymore. In the case of the junk dealer, it's served no local businesses for decades. And for many such licenses, a new business in those categories would fall under the purview of food inspection or other rules.

"It kind of makes me think of -- how many others do we have on the books, just overall? How many ordinances do we have that no longer apply?" City Council member Danny Weigel said. "I think the city does a pretty good job of finding those and taking those out."

New brewery license

It was the same philosophy Weigel brought to a separate vote that same evening to establish a new class of liquor license. Though the council voted 4-2 to create a "brewer taproom" license, which is narrower in scope and less expensive than the license previously available for local microbreweries, Weigel said it was unnecessary. City Council President Dana Sande joined Weigel's “no” vote.

The request for a license tailored to the microbrewery industry had been brought forward by ownership at Half Brothers Brewing Co., a new 17 N. Third St. business. The taproom is part of a surge of microbreweries in North Dakota and around the country.

"They fit into a current liquor license already," Weigel said. "I thought that was sufficient. ... We need to make our government simple, more efficient. If we continue to add and add and add ordinances, it can make things convoluted."

But the majority of the council disagreed. Council member Sandi Marshall pointed out that the city already caters to wineries with a similar, narrow license -- why not do the same for microbreweries?

"The reason I voted in favor of it is not because I'm a fan of creating a longer list of license types. … If we have one, it seemed fair to have the other."

The measure had previously won support in committee and in a preliminary council vote and had been widely expected to pass.

Other Business

Chad Cutshaw, a nearly three-decade veteran of the Grand Forks Fire Department, is expected to assume interim leadership after the retirement of Fire Chief Peter O'Neill at the end of the week. City Administrator Todd Feland has said a new fire chief could be appointed as soon as April.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108