- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Until last night, being elected to serve the city of Duluth meant local officials could not serve patrons in another sense. City councilors, mayors and administrative staff were all forbidden by city code to hold a local liquor license.

But on Monday night, city councilors voted 8-0 to amend the city code and nix the liquor license ban for all but staff working in an enforcement capacity for Duluth’s police or fire departments.

At Large City Councilor Zack Filipovich introduced the ordinance that removed the barrier to city officials owning drinking establishments.

“We still have a restriction against any direct enforcement officials holding liquor licenses,” he said.

But Filipovich said he sees no reason why owning an establishment that serves alcohol should disqualify a person from holding other city offices.

“I think it is unnecessary, especially if we, as city councilors, already are able to have other licenses granted to us, such as licenses for rental properties or other types of businesses,” he said.

For his part, 5th District City Councilor Jay Fosle said he welcomed the change.

“Any time the city can make it easier for a person to go into business, I think it’s a good thing,” he said, noting that such enterprises generate additional tax revenues that can benefit Duluth.

Prior to Monday’s vote, Fosle asked Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson if he knew why the restrictions had been put in place.

Johnson said he frankly did not know the origins of the measure, which predates his tenure.

“I do believe this was originally in Duluth’s charter when it was drafted back in 1959,” he said.

“Obviously that was a different time in terms of alcohol, and alcohol is a business that traditionally has been regulated differently than other businesses by cities. That being said, Duluth certainly can make this change, because the state law is more lenient than what Duluth now has on its books, in terms of the requirements for liquor,” Johnson said.

Back in 2013, Fosle had briefly entertained the idea of entering the bar business and buying a former watering hole in Gary-New Duluth called The Limit. But he decided against it and said he is no longer considering such a move.

Fosle noted wryly that there were other ways around the restriction, such as applying for a license in a spouse’s name.

Filipovich said he was unaware that Fosle had ever expressed an interest in operating a bar and had not proposed the charter change for his particular benefit.

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(c)2015 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.)

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