2 a.m. – leftover thoughts from last week’s meeting

There was a mini-debate in my e-mail inbox two weeks ago about whether it was noteworthy that one of the people protesting the 2 a.m. bar closing time did not live within the city limits.

Some said, yes, it was important to note that he was not a city resident because he was addressing a city issue. Others said it should not matter because he is part of the greater Bemidji community, which would be impacted by the effects of the later bar closing times.

Well, someone contacted me late last week following the joint meeting between the council and the county board to make a similar point. City Councilor Kevin Waldhausen, during that meeting, stressed that public input can be expressed in different ways, including online on blogs such as this and Facebook groups.

As this caller said, if it is important to note whether people addressing the council are city residents, should it not also be found out whether members of the Facebook group also are city residents?

Waldhausen said there are more than 600 members of the Facebook group that supported bringing Zorbaz to Bemidji.

How many are city residents?

I have no idea.


Also, I was contacted by several readers last week who wanted me to provide – either in print or otherwise – the website for the Facebook group supporting Zorbaz.

I was unable to find it.

I was never a member of the group, but I did occasionally look at the page to read the comments. The last I read, following the council’s 4-3 vote in December, the page was going to be deactivated. I am guessing that happened, since I can no longer find the page. But if I’m wrong, someone please paste the link in the comments section here so I can refer to it. Thanks.


Thirdly, I owe new Councilor Jim Thompson an apology (and a correction).

I wrote in this story (first first of two on the joint meeting) this:

“The City Council is split, but the tally is not officially on record. The council last month voted 4-3 to change the bar closing time, but there now are three new council members, who all spoke against a later bar closing time.”

Well, that’s not accurate.

The new councilors are Mayor Dave Larson and Councilors Rita Albrecht and Jim Thompson.

Larson is against the later bar-closing time.  He talked about how he had been considering the purpose of city and county government. “I believe it boils down to this: We are responsible for the safety, health and well-being of those people that we represent. … In view of that, I don’t find any compelling logic or rationale to allow me to be in favor of this (later bar closing).”

Albrecht spoke out against it, saying that if the city was supporting its Police Department, it would follow the recommendations from the police chief: “It doesn’t make sense to continue down this road.”

Thompson, however, did not state his position one way or another on the issue. Instead, he was the first (of many) who stressed the need for the city’s and county’s ordinances to have the same bar closing times. If the city stays with 2 a.m., he said, he hoped the county would go back to 2 a.m. as well. This would eliminate the potential for rushing from one bar at 1 a.m. to another  bar before a 2 a.m. last call.

I inaccurately stated his position on the matter.

Updated: Council approves 2 a.m. bar serving time

I promise this is my last blog update for today. I just wanted to include a link to the full article I wrote on tonight’s council decision to allow for a 2 a.m. bar closing time.

Readers will notice that the council did, kind of, end up discussing the 2 a.m. issue. Councilors did not state their positions prior to making their votes, but three councilors later discussed their opinions of the issue right before the council adjourned.

Personally, I would have rather seen councilors state their positions at the time at which they cast their votes – while members of the public were still in the audience – but I did appreciate the comments from Barb, Jerry and Greg (and the mayor, too, although he did not specifically address the 2 a.m. bar closing time).

So that’s enough for one day. Maybe tomorrow there will be more to say.

Live blog from council meeting: Council approves 2 a.m. bar serving time

The council has voted 4-3 to allows city bars the option of serving alcohol one hour later.

No discussion was held.

Bars that choose to obtain a state permit will be able to serve alcohol one hour later, until 2 a.m., once the ordinance takes effect.

Voting in favor of the change were Councilors Jerry Downs, Ron Johnson, Greg Negard and Kevin Waldhausen. Opposed were Mayor Richard Lehmann and Councilor Roger Hellquist and Barb Meuers.

My full article will be posted online at www.bemidjipioneer.com and will be in Tuesday’s Pioneer.

More to come.

A 2 a.m. question answered

What if Bemidji does vote to extend liquor hours? And then what happens if Beltrami County then votes to prohibit alcohol sales after 1 a.m.? Does one take precedence over the other?

This has been nagging at me all day. Well, actually, since Sunday.

I was going to just wait until tonight’s council meeting, but after discussing it with a few conversations with people smarter than myself, I decided to find out for certain.

This is what I learned: If the city approves the 2 a.m. bar time and if Beltrami County, after going through its ordinance process, votes to prohibit alcohol sales at county bars after 1 a.m., both ordinances would be in effect. The Beltrami County ordinance would not overrule the city ordinance, so a city bar could remain open until 2 a.m. while a county bar would not.

Again, though, that is based on two relatively large ifs.

Stay tuned.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you read the newspaper…

I don’t often read newspapers on weekends. I kind of take a news break for two days. But on Sunday, my family was going to, finally, finish all of our Christmas shopping. So I opened the Pioneer with the intention of just going through the advertisements and coupons.

But my eye was drawn to this story on the front page, the article I wrote on the retiring three city councilors. I saw that we had run with the story an older photo of Barb Meuers, when I asked specifically last week if we had something more recent, so I was a little perplexed to see the photo that ran.

And, as it happens, when I take one quick glance at the front page, I want to see all of the stories. So I flipped open the whole front page and saw this headline, below the fold: “Beltrami County considers 1 a.m. closing for bars.”

Um, what?

So our shopping excursion was delayed a bit longer as I read the story, written by Brad Swenson, who covers the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners, about a possible Beltrami County ordinance that would prohibit bars in the county from selling alcohol after 1 a.m.

If approved, the county’s ordinance could possibly conflict with the city of Bemidji’s alcohol ordinance. As most of my blog readers know, the city tonight is expected to hold the final reading and vote on an ordinance revision that would allow city bars the option of serving alcohol later, until 2 a.m.

Does that change anything for tonight? I don’t know. But I’m interested to hear if the council addresses it at all.

I feel let down

I will make a full blog post at some point tomorrow. But I just wanted say that I am disappointed in the public hearing tonight, during which 10 people spoke in opposition to the proposed later bar closing. No one spoke in favor. I’m certainly not discounting anything that was said tonight – I think all of those who opposed the 2 a.m. bar closing certainly made worthwhile points – but I was really hoping for a better mix of opinions.

Sure, one could argue that there is not a lot of support for a later bar closing time and that is why no one represented that view. But I know that is not true  – I have seen the e-mails, blog comments, various blog postings. And, there is an entire Facebook group dedicated to generating local support for Zorbaz, and in tandem, the later bar closing time. So I know that is not the case.

So what happened?