LF considers reinstating 2 a.m. bar closing

Staff Writer

After getting rid of it eight years ago, the Little Falls City Council is looking at the possibility of giving local bars the opportunity to stay open until 2 a.m.

The question came after Chris Crohn, owner of Beer Belly’s Bar and Grill, asked the city to consider reinstating the 2 a.m. license option, for those who want it.

Crohn said it would allow him to keep his bar and restaurant open later to bring in entertainment, and would keep people from going to bars in the county during the last couple of hours of the night.

Crohn said he has already begun implementing ways to keep people safe and off the streets when they leave.

“I have a bus out behind the building that I give people rides home in,” Crohn said.

If the city wanted to reinstate the 2 a.m. option and change the fees that go with it, an ordinance change, complete with a public hearing, a first reading and final approval, would be required, said City Administrator Jon Radermacher.

The city would have the option to increase fees to all liquor license holders to raise money needed for extra law enforcement work, or have the cost covered by the 2 a.m. licenses, Radermacher said.

Councilman Jeremy Hanfler said he was against raising the rates of every bar owner to cover the cost of the few that may want to stay open until 2 a.m.

“The bars that are struggling, we’re going to make them pay additional fees and they’re not going to use it anyhow,” Hanfler said.

Those that want to stay open until 2 a.m. would still need to get a state permit, Radermacher said.

The state’s license fees range from $300 to $1,000, depending on how many sales the bar makes, while the city’s old fee was $2,000.

Mayor Greg Zylka said one bar owner told him they would be interested in a 2 a.m. closing time for days around holidays.

The Council agreed if a 2 a.m. license was implemented, it should be consistent and not apply to some dates and not others.

“If it passes, I don’t want the police department walking around with a little notebook saying, ‘OK, now it’s Wednesday in August so they’re open until 1 a.m.,’” Mayor Greg Zylka said.                                          City Finance Director Lori Kasella said the ordinance was repealed because in the end, only one bar was using it, and then that bar decided to stop doing it as well.

Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schirmers said at the time, there had been a lot of issues for the Department due to bars being open that late.

“Starting on Thursday and going until Saturday, we spent hours at the bars,” Schirmers said, though he added he wasn’t saying that would happen this time around.

Councilman Leif Hanson said that would have been going on 13-14 years ago as only one bar was open that late after 2004 to 2005.

“A lot has changed,” Hanson said. Schirmers agreed, saying the culture and owners have changed.

If there are businesses that say they need this to be successful, Hanson said, the Council should look at giving them the opportunity.

The Council directed staff to draft an ordinance for review.

Zylka said he would like to see one drafted as fast as possible, given that Crohn has been speaking with the city on this for the past six weeks.