Star Tribune

Costco plans have council rethinking Burnsville's liquor law

Officials say the city has considered changing the ordinance before, but plans to open store has put the issue back on agenda.

Article by: DEAN SPIROS , Star Tribune

Updated: April 30, 2009 - 11:50 PM

Mega-retailer Costco wants to open its first south-metro location in Burnsville, but the store's plans hinge on the city changing its rules to allow liquor stores closer than a mile apart.

Burnsville City Council member Dan Kealey said the city has looked at changing the ordinance in the past but has elected not to do so. Now that Costco has contacted the city about opening a store, the council is giving it another look.

"I believe we have a responsibility to review our ordinances if market forces change and a review is indicated," Kealey said. "That goes for all of our ordinances, to make sure we are adapting wherever we feel it is necessary to maximize development opportunities and expand our tax base in Burnsville."

Council member Charlie Crichton said that he is open to a change in the ordinance and that he will make a decision after weighing all the information presented during a meeting on June 23 and a public hearing on July 28.

Costco, which operates stores in Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Maplewood, St. Louis Park and Coon Rapids, has targeted the south metro area for expansion. Most Costco stores, including all its Minnesota locations except Eden Prairie, include liquor stores.

Lakeville, Apple Valley and Savage have city-owned liquor stores, which means no private liquor retailers are allowed. That means Burnsville is the chain's best option.

Burnsville Deputy City Manager Tammy Omidal said the city would not change its liquor laws for the sole purpose of landing a Costco but said such a change would make the store likelier to open there.

"[The council] will look at what some of the other cities do, what some of the implications are," Omidal said. "The Police Department has not expressed any concerns and views it as a governance issue for the council."

Costco is interested in a site along County Road 42, Burnsville's main retail stretch, between County Road 5 to the west and Interstate 35E to the east. The company would require 20 acres of land to accommodate a freestanding warehouse-type store and the needed parking space.

There is an MGM Liquor Warehouse on County Road 42 across the street from Burnsville Center. Acquiring property along the preferred stretch of 42 would require the relocation of at least one business.

Seven businesses in Burnsville sell packaged liquor. The current ordinance prevented a wine and cheese shop from opening in the Heart of the City and halted interest Trader Joe's had in opening a store in Burnsville.

Costco is the fourth-largest general retailer in the United States. Club members pay $50 each year to shop at the warehouse for food, clothing, home goods, sporting goods and auto supplies, among other things, along with a variety of wines, beer and hard liquor. Nonmembers can purchase alcohol but must pay in cash.

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203

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