By Kristen Miller
DARWIN, MN The future of the Darwin Municipal Liquor Store was the topic of conversation Tuesday during a mandatory public hearing.
The state statute requires municipalities to hold a public hearing when its liquor store has had two consecutive annual net losses within three years.
The net loss for 2008 was $16,293, but in 2009, there was a profit of $4,576. However, in 2010, there was a loss of $567.
Liquor store manager of two years Katie Riehle told those in attendance, “The store is starting to turn around dramatically,” announcing sales through November are at a profit of $9,612, resulting in a profit margin of 27.9 percent (28 percent is recommended).
It was stated that the liquor store is still recovering from repercussions from issues with the previous liquor store manager/city clerk.
Riehle said that when she started as manager, her priorities were, and have been, to keep a tighter inventory, watch trends of what sells and doesn’t, and keep prices competitive with Litchfield and Dassel liquor stores.
“The way I look at it . . . it’s going in the right direction,” Riehle said.
The council has been receiving monthly reports on the liquor store, so they are aware of the numbers presented by Riehle.
Mayor Josh Johnson commented on rumors about the city possibly leasing the liquor store building and selling the business.
That is not something the city is looking at currently, however, the store needs to see a high profit margin.
“It’s definitely an asset to the city right now,” Johnson said, but the city will have to see what the audit reports tells them.
Former council member Larry Huhn said “I’d sure like it to stay in town, whether it be a municipal or private.”
One resident asked if it would be worth it to lease it out and Council Member Lee Peterson gave some rough figures that he received from a Realtor in that line of business.
The city could potentially get $500-$800 in rent each month, $1,000 from issuing a liquor sale license, and whatever the sale of the inventory would be.
Former mayor Orlan Cervin said he would like it to stay a municipal liquor store since it’s providing jobs to residents of Darwin.
Ultimately, the potential sale of the liquor store would be up to the council, though that is not in discussion as of now.
“Katie has been working really hard to raise these numbers back up,” said Council Member Diane Porth.
City Clerk Paula Drahos also pointed out that last year’s numbers reflected unemployment payments that were due.
It was also noted that in the past, depreciation wasn’t accounted for until the end of the year, as well as the payment and fee for sales tax on liquor that was owed, which went back three years. A new accountant has helped solve some of these issues.