Flemmer makes presentation about future options for city-owned facility
By Barbie Porter
Frazee City Councilman Mark Flemmer is once again trying to encourage conversations about the city-owned liquor store. Another conversation took place during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16. This time, he put together a slide show that showed expenses exceeded profits the past several years.
Flemmer noted in 2017 there was a small profit, and there may be one last year, but the final numbers will not be known until the audit is complete. Other than those glimmers of profit, Flemmer said the losses have averaged almost $21,960 per year over the past five years.
As for cash on hand, Flemmer said in 2015 the store started with $169,000, by 2019 that dwindled to $61,748.
Flemmer said the COVID-19 pandemic provided hard data that should be considered. He explained when state mandates required the on-sale bar portion of the business to close that the off-sale store produced a profit of $27,000.
Flemmer said he felt the focus should be placed on the off-sale, and options to repurpose the bar space should be considered.
Flemmer recalled discussion took place about providing a full dinner service, which would require a lot of renovation to the kitchen area. After chatting with an owner of a popular local restaurant, he said the costs were “tremendous” and the employee costs to staff such a business would be high.
After brainstorming, Flemmer said his ideas were to sell the bar section of the building or tear it down.
Flemmer said the VFW has expressed interest in purchasing a larger space and expressed interest in the location. As for demolishing the space, Flemmer noted that would take care of monthly electrical and heat bills, offer more parking for the event center, or space for recreational amenities.
Flemmer said he liked the idea of moving the off-sale portion of the liquor store to the new commercial building on Main Avenue. He noted it would offer an opportunity to update, expand and be at a prime location. Flemmer said there are two spots available in the new building and one would provide a drive up window service option as well.
Flemmer also talked to the liquor store manager at the successful Vergas off-sale operation, which was remodeled in recent years, and got some tips that have attributed to its success.
Flemmer said the other option to consider would be to leave the off-sale where it is at and consider moving the on-sale to the event center, which would allow the liquor service to remain an option for those renting the venue. He added it would be nice to add more events, such as comedians, bands and other acts for area residents to enjoy a night on the town.
Frazee Mayor Ken Miosek said he felt the discussion should’ve been sent to the liquor store committee first.
Flemmer noted if he did, then that would be a special meeting as there would be three council member present. He then encouraged the liquor store committee to reach out to the VFW and look at available options.
“Not sure how the VFW can buy the building if they can’t make the EDA payment,” Councilman Mark Kemper said. “And if the EDA borrows the money, that is like the city buying their own building because the city gives the EDA money. If we’re going to do that we might as well give it to the liquor store.”
It should be noted the VFW took out a remodeling loan from the EDA, which was deferred after the state required the bar to close for an extended period of time due to COVID-19.
Kemper added he felt like the discussions brought to the council were like putting a “cart a mile ahead of the horse.”
“I looked at this and it was like, I didn’t even know we were talking about any of this stuff yet,” Kemper continued. “Nothing has ever been brought up about selling.”
Flemmer explained his presentation was to spur conversation.
Miosek added there is a lot to explore with the ideas that were presented.
“I appreciate the presentation and different opinions, instead of having the same conversation every month as we continue to lose money with nothing being done,” Councilwoman Nicole Strand said.
Councilman Mike Sharp reminded everyone the financial statements and downward trend indicates if they do nothing, the business will run its course.