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City council approves liquor store study

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council decided Monday morning to go ahead with a feasibility study for the city's municipally owned liquor store.

According to the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association (MMBA), a store that generates sales more than $600 per square foot is entitled to consider a new facility.

Worthington Liquor Store currently stands at 4,300 square feet, and the average sale per square foot in 2010 was $603.71.

Based on estimated store sales for 2011, the average sale per square foot for this year was computed to be $652.01.

From 2006 to 2010, the store's average annual net sales increase is 8.67 percent.

Council settled on real estate consultants McComb Group Ltd. to conduct the study. Alderman Mike Woll expressed his concern about the Minneapolis-based company working on the project.

"Sometimes regional differences mixed with small towns, perspectives can be skewed," Woll said.

Some areas of improvement to be addressed are:

* Flooring/carpeting

* Camera system

* Bathrooms

* Floor and cooler shelving

* Beer cooler

Mayor Alan Oberloh initiated a discussion about placing bathrooms at the front of the store to curb shoplifting.

"The biggest issue I'm here for as far as our present store ... our big walk-in cooler holds a tremendous amount of beer, and this beer is all turned in a week's basis," said Dan Wycoff, store manager. "The conclusion I have here is we need a whole new box (cooler)."

The store is also lacking a loading dock for product delivery which, among other things, contributes to higher labor costs.

Alderman Lyle Ten Haken was not in favor of pursuing a new liquor facility at this point in time.

"I don't think we have the political climate to be constructing," Ten Haken said.

He cited two major city projects that are currently under way; the new fire station and the senior center.

"Making a move within the next year to do this, I don't have the political will to do it." Haken said.

Paul Kaspszak, MMBA executive director, agreed that political will is a vital factor.

"Even in Lakefield ... they had to have neighborhood meetings, and they had to do that type of education to address citizens' concerns," he said, citing the nearby community as an example.

The feasible study is a "no-brainer" Kaspszak said.

"You will use that to ultimately make a decision." Kaspszak added.

Ten Haken suggested that now could be the time to conduct the study in order to draw on public sentiments.

"We'll be able to get better at what we do, somewhat right, in the store we're at and look at this new building a couple of years down the road when we've got the fire hall and some other things done," Oberloh said about the time frame he had in mind.

Council unanimously approved the feasibility study and the budget amendment for the cost of funding to come from the undesignated liquor store fund balance.