UPDATE (June 24, 2020): Smokey Treats withdrew its application for a combination "Class B" liquor license and class "B" beer license, avoiding the need for a coin toss to decide which business would be issued the city's one available license, City Clerk Amy White said in an email Wednesday. That means Swinging Bridge will be issued the combination license.
Original story below:
RIVER FALLS — Two respected Main Street businesses applied for one available combination liquor and beer license. City Council’s solution? A coin toss.
The city had met its state-mandated limit of 19 “Class B” liquor licenses, but one recently became available after the now-closed Copper Kettle restaurant did not renew. Swinging Bridge Brewery and Smokey Treats each applied for it.
Unable to decide which business should be granted the combination license, council members Tuesday night, June 23, directed the city clerk to flip a coin, with the winning business getting the privilege of selling intoxicating liquor by the glass for on-site consumption. A time and date for the coin toss was not immediately set.
Representatives for both businesses spoke during a public hearing prior to the vote, and acknowledged the difficult choice before the council. Council member Scott Morrissette said hearing them each make their case didn’t make the decision any easier.
“They didn’t try to downplay the other business, they didn’t try to take a swipe at them,” Morrissette said. “It just speaks that much more to the integrity of these two businesses that we have in town.”
He put forward a motion and amendment for a coin toss, which was seconded by Council member Diane Odeen. The motion passed unanimously.
“It’s kind of like picking your favorite child,” Odeen said of the decision to grant the license. “It’s like you don’t want to have to justify why you didn’t pick that one.”
Swinging Bridge Brewery is a brewpub at 122 South Main St. It reopened in February after closing in 2019. Its menu features a variety of craft beers from around the Midwest, as well as nachos, roasted street corn and other pub-style food. It currently holds a beer and wine license.
Smokey Treats opened in October 2019 at 127 North Main St. specializing in “contemporary fusion BBQ,” according to the restaurant’s website. It too holds a beer and wine license.
The quota of 19 “Class B” liquor licenses was set by the state in the 1990s based on the number of licenses the city had issued prior to Dec. 1, 1997. River Falls also has the option of issuing five reserve liquor licenses to businesses, but at a price tag of $10,000 in addition to the license fee, according to a staff report.