The city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee unanimously agreed Tuesday to recommend that the city council keep the city’s class A liquor license quota with some modifications.

The committee and council for months have discussed changing—or outright eliminating—the quota on class A liquor licenses, which allow sales of alcohol for off-premises consumption.

Currently, the quota limits the city to 19 class A licenses but allows for exceptions if the license would expand the trade of an existing business, redevelop an underused property or spark new business.

The committee’s recommendation includes these changes:

  • Lower the quota from one license for every 3,500 residents to one license for every 2,500 residents. That would allow 26 licenses, seven more than the current 19.
  • Eliminate the exemption that permits a license if it expands trade for an existing business.
  • Set a minimum requirement for redevelopments of $100,000 in project costs.

Council President Sue Conley has floated an ordinance eliminating the quota, which city staff supports, arguing that a quota can be an obstacle to economic development.

Committee members have raised concerns that eliminating the quota would lead to a glut of new liquor stores, with all kinds of businesses vying to sell alcohol. Members have those concerns even though they review all alcohol license applications prior to approval, regardless of the quota.

Gale Price, city economic development director, said the quota makes it difficult for businesses to expand their business models. Price shared an example of a downtown retailer who wanted to sell gift baskets with personalized items and bottles of wine. The city has no path that allows that business to offer such a product under current license restrictions.

Committee members expressed general disapproval of the gift basket idea, saying it would be difficult for the business to separate the alcohol displays, which is also required by ordinance.

The separation ordinance requires that businesses have a space with a separate external entrance if they want to sell alcohol, meaning alcohol cannot be sold among other products. Businesses can apply for an exemption that allows a small display of alcohol in the store.

Committee member and bar owner Kevin Riley said he wants to see alcohol remain in the hands of business owners who are seasoned in alcohol sales rather than sales of other goods.

The council could approve the committee’s revised quota, eliminate the quota, take no action or choose a new option.