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Paynesville Press - Aug. 13, 2003

Stearns County approves 2 a.m. bar closings

By Michael Jacobson

Bars in Stearns County will have the option to stay open open longer.

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to allow bars to obtain a special permit to stay open until 2 a.m., an hour later than currently. The change is now permissible under state law, the result of the recent legislative session.

In July, the commissioners agreed to keep the closing time at 1 a.m. for the 34 bars in the county licensed by the county and set a public hearing to change the county ordinance to keep 1 a.m. closing times for bars.

Bars in townships are regulated by the county; bars in cities are regulated by their respective city governments.

But the board was moved to reconsider the closing time after a public hearing last week, mainly because some cities in the county have already allowed their bars to stay open until 2 a.m. According to the St. Cloud Times, cities that have approved 2 a.m. bar closing times include Cold Spring, Kimball, Rockville, St. Martin, and Sartell.

If the county would have limited bars in townships to a 1 a.m. closing, it would have put them at a competitive disadvantage, it was argued.

The board approved allowing bars to apply for a special permit to stay open until 2 a.m. and then approved an application from Kozzie's Lakeside Club in Eden Lake Township to stay open until 2 a.m.

Any bar wishing to change their closing time to 2 a.m. must still apply to do so. Applications require a state fee, and the county is looking at whether the county should charge to cover its costs. This issue will come back to the county board.

A county ordinance will continue to require bars to close at 1 a.m. on Sundays.

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