City denies new liquor license
The City Council voted 3-2 at its meeting Tuesday against granting a reserve liquor license to Hernandez Entertainment, LLC, which wants to open Friends Bar & Grill at 1107 S. Wasson Ln., a location familiar to many locals as "the old PRs place."
The application lists Sonia Hernandez as the business owner and Darrell Delahousaye as its agent. It describes the plan for a bar and restaurant with banquet facilities. The applicants included a copy of a lease agreement they signed with property owner Paul Cudd and Sons, as well as a personal guarantee signed by Steven Rinker.
Delahousaye confirmed that the proposed business targets middle-aged individuals and that the new business owners had made many changes, transforming the former nightclub area into a banquet hall.
He said the business had hosted two parties without alcohol but wanted to continue and be able to serve liquor with the food.
Owner representative Paul Cudd spoke to the council, characterizing the license-application process as a "rough road," and asking them to keep an open mind.
"These people have done a lot of work, put a lot of effort into developing this business, and I hope you'll give them a chance," said Cudd.
Council Member Jim Nordgren asked how long they'd been there. Delayhousaye responded about two months but mentioned more party bookings through October. He said to "make it," the business needs the restaurant, and the restaurant needs liquor.
Council Member Scott Morrissette asked about the two months since the lease had been signed. Cudd said they've had a 'token lease' since November.
City Administrator Scot Simpson confirmed that this license would be a "reserve" since River Falls has reached its quota of licenses. He said no presumptions about licenses should be made because River Falls has no obligation to grant them.
Council Member Diane Odeen asked how many liquor licenses the city has and how the quota is determined -- 19 and by population.
Soon Council Member Christopher Gagne moved to approve the license and Council Member Jim Nordgren seconded, but their three peers said no. City Attorney William Thiel prompted the council to immediately give a reason why it was denying the license, with eyes coming to rest on Council Members David Cronk, Odeen and Morrissette.
Odeen volunteered and the others agreed, "I think there are enough liquor licenses in town."
She said the proposed establishment is in a quiet neighborhood and added that there are already people who feel as though too many licensed places detract from River Falls' family friendly atmosphere.
More license, trash, candidate talk
As it does annually before they expire June 30, the council approved renewals for all the existing liquor, beer and wine licenses, but not before Mayor Dan Toland scolded the holders for not submitting their applications -- on time and with no prompting.
"If these people don't realize this is their business, we shouldn't be on the phone for three weeks (telling them)," he said, referring to the city staff's "hard work" sending repeated reminders.