Mitchell takes the lead asking for temporary to-go alcohol change
Mitchell’s city leaders are trying to provide some relief for the community bars that are currently losing out on revenue from alcohol sales.
City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein told The Daily Republic that Mitchell’s government leaders, along with the assistance of the South Dakota Municipal League, have asked Gov. Kristi Noem to provide relief to businesses that only have on-sale malt beverage and liquor licenses that are currently closed by the COVID-19.
The proposal, city officials said, would allow temporary off-sale licenses to businesses that don’t have one. Businesses that already have off-sale licenses, which allows for consumption off-premises, are unaffected. The idea of takeout alcohol from traditionally on-sale restaurants and bars has been temporarily approved in more than a dozen other states.
“I don’t know if they will allow for a change,” Ellwein said of the request to the governor’s office. “We had seen that other states have allowed this and really, we’re just looking to create some flexibility for the businesses that have been most affected by this.”
Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said there have been some discussions about approaching the state to give some temporary licenses, but admitted he didn’t know how far it has gone. Everson noted that typical state laws regarding the handling of alcohol and open containers would remain intact.
“It has to be sealed in a container, just like it would be normally,” Everson said. “You wouldn’t be able to buy it to go and it carry out, for example, a margarita in a cup. We are going to maintain the open container laws if this changes.”
Kirby Muilenberg owns Wiley’s Tavern and Tinner’s Public House in Sioux Falls, and is president of the South Dakota Licensed Beverage Dealers and Gaming Association. He said the idea of temporary licenses for off-sale would be difficult to pull off, but wouldn’t say no to any potential options that could help businesses out.
“It’s my personal opinion that it doesn’t help out the restaurants and the bars too much,” Muilenberg said. “The margins are just so tight and it’s not like a liquor store, where so much of their sales is based on volume. When you’re talking about cocktails, it’s going to be challenging.”
Muilenberg said the preference is to wait for the proper go-ahead directives from city and state leaders.
“We’re just kind of waiting for recommendations from above,” he said. “We’re ready to get back to work and we want to do it in a safe manner.”
His establishments have been closed since mid-March. Muilenberg said it’s been hard to describe having his entire business outlook turned upside down.
“Nobody ever thinks something like this is going to happen,” he said. “But you just try to approach each day the best you can.”
Ellwein said the request comes after the state legislature had its Veto Day — the final day of the legislative session — on March 30, and legislators approved allowing Noem to suspend some state laws while under the COVID-19 emergency.
A request for comment from Noem’s office was not returned prior to the deadline for this story.
Among city governments, Everson admitted it’s one of many proposals that have been bandied about regarding helping businesses and individuals during
“There are so many things that are being discussed right now, it’s hard to keep it all straight, to be honest,” Everson said. “We’re doing what we can.”
South Dakota’s neighboring states have taken action to make changes, either through legislative change or gubernatorial proclamation. In Minnesota, legislators agreed to a plan that would allow restaurants and bars to offer beer and wine to go to help them stay afloat. The plan allows selling up to 72 ounces of beer, hard seltzer or cider (the equivalent of a six-pack of 12-ounce cans), and up to 750 milliliters of wine (the standard size of a bottle of wine). The sale of alcohol would be required to be done in conjunction with food orders.
In Iowa, restaurants and bars with liquor licenses that typically hold on-premises licenses are temporarily allowed to sell alcoholic beverages to go by proclamation of Gov. Kim Reynolds.
For Mitchell and all of South Dakota, Ellwein said making the change could assist some businesses with a renewed option for revenue.
“You would have some new businesses that aren’t typically in that business, but it would give them a chance right now, and that’s important for some of our establishments in our city,” she said.