Liquor license to undergo change

Erik Ebsen

Erik Ebsen

The city of Brookings oversees the sale of every ounce of alcohol sold within the city.

This includes drinks served in bars, in addition to off-sale alcohol sold in various stores throughout town. Before 1955, however, Brookings was a dry town. City law prohibited all alcohol sales.

South Dakota state law allows each town one liquor license per 1,500 residents, approximately, says city attorney Steve Britzman. The town can either lease the ability to sell alcohol to privately owned businesses or keep it themselves. Brookings opts to keep this ability by owning the only liquor store in town. Businesses and private citizens alike must buy alcohol through this store.

Any establishment serving alcohol in open containers must agree to use the city’s license. They purchase all beverages through the Brookings Municipal Liquor Store, which issues a markup on such sales. The establishment must also pay an annual license fee to the state.

Private sales at the liquor store do not have this markup. City management dictates certain guidelines for the liquor store to follow, says assistant manager Dave Mitchell. Upper and lower limits exist on item price, for example. The store can purchase its wares from anything available in a South Dakota warehouse.

City laws will soon change again. Effective April 20, vendors that don’t serve food will be able to sell beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays. The current law allows Sunday alcohol sales only to establishments that serve food with it as well.

Some places are more strict. Jack Daniels whiskey, for instance, is made in a dry county in Tennessee, according to Mitchell. Apparently, the whiskey can be produced there and shipped out, but not sold there.

Brookings opened itself to alcohol sales in 1955, after residents petitioned and brought the issue to a vote, Mitchell said. After several recounts, city law was changed to allow a liquor store owned by the city. Similar city-owned stores exist in more than 40 South Dakota towns, including Vermillion and Sturgis.