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Council panel OKs Super One liquor license

After numerous emails, phone calls and about an hour of debate Monday before the city’s License and Fees Committee, the panel of city councilors gave its stamp of approval to issue a liquor license for the new Super One store.

The license would permit operation of a liquor store adjacent to the new grocery store on East Second Street if approved Aug. 19 by the City Council.

For Walter Haugen, owner of Pudge’s, the decision by Miner’s Inc. to open a liquor store in the new store left him feeling deceived. After all, in early meetings to discuss the building project with businesses and residents, he said, there were no plans to open a liquor store then.

“Talk to Mayor [Bruce] Hagen,” Haugen said to the members of the panel. “You may think that we’re tainted for the purpose of helping our own businesses. I think it would really help to talk to Bruce just to see the agreements that were made. I’m sure everyone would believe him; he’s such an upstanding person.”

Councilor Tom Fennessey said he had spoken to the mayor, confirming Hagen had a similar story to the East End tavern owner.

“He and I openly talked about that if that was the case that it was unfortunate that we didn’t get some sort of a development agreement,” Fennessey said. “…Of course, that didn’t happen.”

Attorney Toby Marcovich, representing Super One, pointed out the City Council was aware that there was the potential for a liquor store in one of the building’s sites for other businesses months before Miner’s Inc. broke ground on the new store.

“There’s been a lot said about what was claimed to be a promise by the Super One people to build or operate a liquor store,” Marcovich said. He read a transcript from the council’s December 2012 decision to approve zoning changes for construction of the new store, pointing out that Councilor Dan Olson had specifically questioned whether a liquor store was a possible option for additional store spaces planned as part of the construction project. Miner’s architect, John Geissler was describing the types of businesses that could go into those additional spaces and responded to Olson’s question about a liquor story stating it was a possibility.

“All of the objectors to this license are competitors,” Marcovich said. He advised committee members that it would be a very slippery slope for the City Council by regulating competition because it would create an environment in which people would stop investing in Superior.

Councilor Jack Sweeney, who represents the district where Super One and Haugen’s business is located, said he did his own survey of the businesses in the area, and found the majority of them were not against Super One operating a liquor store in the neighborhood.

Sweeney said he talked to the majority of business owners in the area, including the four bars in the neighborhood, and asked them if the new liquor store would affect their business and if it would help.

“Overwhelmingly, they said it would … not affect my business or it would help it, including the four bars,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said for that reason, and because he doesn’t believe it’s his role as a councilor to control industry, he favored issuing the liquor license.

The panel of three unanimously approved recommending the council issue the license.

The City Council considers the license at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 in Room 201 of the Government Center.