With over 923 different beers and a large selection of wine and liquor, the two municipal liquor stores in Fergus Falls have something for many different 21-and-older individuals to choose from. But while both offer a large variety of alcohol to drink responsibly, the two also are a main contributor to the city’s overall operations.
According to an annual review of municipal liquor store performance released by state auditor Julie Blaha, Fergus Falls ranked second in the amount given back to the city in greater Minnesota with $584,369 in 2018. Only Elk River ($689,174) gave more back to their city that year, while Cambridge ($563,000), Fairmont ($560,000) and Park Rapids ($549,616) rounded out the top five.
The income gained from municipal liquor stores can go to a variety of operating expenses for the city. The revenue stream can provide tax relief to the community, while also allowing funds to be used toward building maintenance, capital equipment and bond payments, just to name a few items. “The property tax levy of the city would be 10% higher without these transfers,” Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store manager Brandon Currie said.
In 2018, the operating expense of both municipal liquor stores in Fergus Falls during 2018 was $1,083,370 with sales of $6,162,911. Fergus Falls ranked fourth overall in liquor sales for greater Minnesota with Elk River ($7.2 million), Detroit Lakes ($7.1 million) and Hutchinson ($6.2 million). This is quite an intake for the city as it provides a boon to taxpayers. Currie also mentioned that both stores are operating at a profit and while the store and the selection at Fergus Liquors is bigger, the Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store offers convenience to residents.
According to the report, the top six municipal liquor stores reside in the Twin Cities. Lakeville had the highest liquor sales with $15.2 million in 2018, while Edina ($13.4 million), Richfield ($11.5 million), Eden Prairie ($10.8 million) and Apple Valley ($9.4 million) were in the top five across the state.
The success the Fergus Falls liquor stores had in 2018 is on par with a state-wide trend. According to Blaha, statewide liquor sales increased $11.3 million in 2018.
Some have pointed to Sunday liquor sales as the reason for the increase. Although the Fergus Liquors has been open on Sundays for over three years, Currie says that it is hard to “pinpoint the increase in revenue” by having the extra day of operation. “ There has been some new business, but we have also seen customers changing their shopping habits now that the availability is there,” Currie added.
This isn’t to say that having Fergus Liquor opened on Sundays is a bad thing as Currie believes that local shopping from citizens of surrounding communities has made an impact. “Sunday shoppers from surrounding communities come to Fergus on Sundays now and have the option to shop the largest liquor selection in central Minnesota, while saving money at the same time. Hopefully those shoppers stick around and shop some of our other great local retailers while they are in town.”
While it does provide a revenue stream for the city, Currie explained that the primary purpose of municipal liquor stores is for health and safety. “The primary purpose is to regulate the sale of alcohol to preserve public health and minimize public safety concerns including keeping alcohol out of the hands of youth. A benefit of the operation of the stores to the city of Fergus Falls is the reduction in taxes and the ability to contribute to local projects of community interest.”
Giving back to the community through financial means is always a plus, the liquor store also hosts several events during the year. Events include the craft beer fest, wine knot tasting, lakes area wine club and the annual pre-holiday tasting.
While 2019’s audit report is still a ways away, Currie is optimistic that it will show continued success.
“The results were very positive in 2019.”