Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 22, 2004

Bar closing time back up for discussion

By Jane Otto

Whether Winsted’s night life will be extended to 2 a.m. could be decided at a 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7 hearing.

In May 2003, the legislature passed a law allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m., but left the final say up to cities. At that time, Winsted City Council decided it would stick with the 1 a.m. closing.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jeff Fuerstenberg, representing Bailey’s Tavern and Grill, asked the council if it would reconsider its decision.

Holding a Hollywood Ranch House poster that advertised music and a 2 a.m. closing, Fuerstenberg said this is hurting his business if he can’t compete.

If the council agreed to a 2 a.m. closing, the city can raise its liquor license fee if it’s determined police hours increase due to the later closing, City Administrator Brent Mareck said.

Fuerstenberg told council members he wants a 2 a.m. closing for Thursday through Saturday, “depending on what’s going on.”

Mareck said it might be possible to grant a special 2 a.m. permit.

In addition to Bailey’s, Winsted has three other businesses that have on-sale liquor licenses.

The Blue Note’s owners said they are OK with the 1 a.m. closing, but would stay open until 2 a.m. if other bars did so, Mareck said. The city hasn’t heard from Keg’s Bar or the American Legion, he said.

The council unanimously agreed to have a hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7.

The conversation continued after Fuerstenberg left the meeting.

Council Member Gerald Boldt said it would be helpful to know if surrounding towns allow a 2 a.m. bar closing before making a decision.

Not convinced that a 2 a.m. closing is the way to go, Council Member Tom Ollig said, “I just can’t see where keeping bars open to 2 a.m. extends the quality of life in Winsted.”

What area bars do

Rod Heldt, owner of the Hollywood Ranch House, said his hours have since changed. Though he has a state license to sell alcohol until 2 a.m., his insurance costs are considerably less if he closes at 1 a.m., Heldt said.

“I’m in obvious favor of anything a bar owner can do to survive,” he added.

The advertised 2 a.m. closing was only on weekend music nights. Bars in this area have few nights when they would be open until 2 a.m., Heldt said. “During the week, we’re usually closing up by midnight.”

In the cities of Lester Prairie, New Germany, Montrose, Waverly, Howard Lake, and Silver Lake, bars close at 1 a.m. Of the two bars in Mayer, one has a 2 a.m. license.

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