City leaders mull possible liquor store changes
By Seth Schmidt
Are changes on the horizon for Tracy’s municipal liquor store operation?
Maybe, judging from an informal city council discussion Monday night.
Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said the time had come for a “meaningful” discussion about the liquor store’s future.
“We need to decide whether to sink more money into it or whether to consider another site,” the mayor said.
The liquor store wasn’t on the council’s agenda. The discussion was prompted by mention that a section of roof on the liquor store was leaking.
The mayor said the liquor store building has “more issues than just the roof. I don’t want to say it’s a money pit, but it’s an old building.”
Perhaps, the mayor said, the city would be better off with a new liquor store in a better location.
City Administrator Mike Votca said that consideration should also be given to whether the city should consider not having a municipal liquor store. Perhaps a private party, that paid real estate taxes and city license fees, Votca indicated, might generate more money for the city than the liquor store is now returning to the city.
In 2015, the Tracy Municipal Liquor store showed a profit of about $24,000. But the council did not transfer any liquor store funds into the general fund, choosing instead to retain liquor store funds for a reserve fund that could be used upgrade the building.
“The whole purpose of a (municipal) liquor store is to generate more revenue so people can pay less tax,” the administrator said Monday night.
He noted that Slayton is a comparably-sized area town that does not have a municipal liquor store. He said he’d like to look into Slayton’s situation, and see how that community is doing as far as getting revenues from the privately-operated liquor store. If the City of Tracy could generate a certain amount of revenue, without having to operate a municipal liquor store, Votca said that would be something to consider.
“Other towns have privatized their liquor store,” councilman Kurt Enderson observed.
The council discussion mentioned the fact that the municipal liquor store’s off-sale (retail) is doing much better than the on-sale (bar) side of the operation. Votca said that is typical of data that he has seen from other towns.
The council discussion also included the question of whether the city, if it continues to operate a municipal liquor operation, should move from its downtown South St. location, to Hwy. 14.
“(Maybe) we can maximize our business by moving to Hwy. 14,” said Ferrazzano.
“That’s why Marshall moved theirs,” said Votca, referring to the new municipal liquor store that recently opened near Menards on the south edge of Marshall.
Enderson and Ferrazzano suggested forming a committee to study the issue.
“I know we have to do something…I’d like to get feedback from the public,” said the mayor.
Votca said that the liquor store question is “part of a bigger picture” that includes maintenance needs of other city buildings. He said he’d like a facilities committee to study all of the city’s needs.