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Council resolves to not invoke penalty for liquor violation

The City Council considered action at their May 1 meeting to impose a civil penalty to Due Olives LLC, formerly known as Vista Rio and currently Lock and Dam Eatery. The council had the ability to impose a penalty that included suspension or revocation of their liquor license, but chose not to invoke any penalty.

According to documents provided to City Council, Due Olives LLC had been posted on the Minnesota Department of Revenue Tax Delinquent Liquor Posting from Jan. 17, 2017, through March 28, 2017. Once posted on the list, a Minnesota statute prohibits alcoholic beverage wholesale distributors from selling or delivering any alcoholic beverage products to the retailer. It is also illegal for a retailer of alcoholic beverages to purchase liquor from another retailer of alcoholic beverages for the purpose of resale.

On March 10, 2017, a state representative visited the establishment and conducted an inspection in which he located several varieties of malt beverage. He determined that the malt beverage products were delivered to or brought into the business in violation of a Minnesota statute.

Jennifer Melecio, owner of Lock and Dam Eatery, was present for the meeting. Melecio said that Due Olives LLC was on the tax delinquent list because they paid for utilities first, employees next and taxes were the third item on the list.

Council member Lisa Leifeld said that she thinks the reason for not paying taxes was out of necessity. She said that she understood that the business would need to pay for utilities to operate first, employees to keep the business running and then taxes would be third.

Melecio stated that there was no intent to sell the alcoholic beverages found. The beverages were purchased for a January employee gathering and in the process of being removed from the business.

Dan Fluegel, the city attorney, said there is no precedent for this particular situation. There was a situation in 2009, but he said it is not a good comparison because there were other factors involved unrelated to the situation at hand.

Mayor Paul Hicks said that City Council should take into consideration that Due Olives did cooperate with the state in the investigation and when a fine was imposed, they paid it. Council member Lori Braucks said that since the business already paid a penalty, she did not see why they should impose another one.

"I don't want to double up on a penalty that was already imposed," she said.

After City Council's discussion, a motion was made to not invoke a penalty and the motion was carried. Council member Mark Vaughan suggested that a future discussion take place to set a precedent for a similar situation.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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