This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Odean Thompson, et al.,
Lake Edward Township,
Filed December 26, 2000
Lake Edward Township Board
Steven R. Qualley, Gammello, Sandelin & Qualley, P.A., 30849 First Street, P.O. Box 298, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472 (for relators)
Kenneth H. Bayliss, Heidi N. Wolf, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., 400 South First Street, 600 Wells Fargo Center, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator Thompson alleges that respondent Lake Edward Township’s board’s refusal to pass a resolution supporting his application for an off-sale liquor license was arbitrary because the denial was improperly based on public opposition to the application. We affirm.
F A C T S
Relator Rolland Thompson applied to Crow Wing County for an off-sale liquor license to operate a liquor store in the town of Merrifield in Lake Edward Township. One of Thompson’s sons had operated a liquor store at the same location previously but when the store closed the license reverted to the county.
Before the county would issue a new license, it required that Thompson obtain approval by the Town Board of Lake Edward Township. Thompson applied for approval and the town board held a public hearing on March 7, 2000.
Prior to the hearing, 53 residents signed a petition opposing the town board’s approval of the liquor license. The petitioners stated three reasons for their opposition:
1. Two other liquor stores exist less than a quarter of a mile in each direction to purchase liquor therefore there is no benefit to the community.
2. Where it is to be established is primarily residential therefore an invasion to the small Merrifield community.
3. It is across the street from the Community Church in Merrifield and presents the wrong message to children who attend the church. To have three liquor establishments to one church seems out of proportion.
Thompson responded to the residents’ concerns, noting that the residents did not cite actual damages that would result from the operation of a liquor store; the property is zoned commercial and had at one time previously been used for a liquor store; and the objection about the message it would send by being located across from a church was very subjective.
Basing its decision on the residents’ opposition, the town board voted to deny Thompson’s application.
D E C I S I O N
Appellate review of a municipality’s decision regarding a liquor license application is narrow and “should be exercised most cautiously”; granting relief only from “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or fraudulent action.” Wajda v. City of Minneapolis, 310 Minn. 339, 343, 246 N.W.2d 455, 457 (1976). Relator Thompson carries the burden of demonstrating the arbitrariness of the council’s action. See Country Liquors, Inc. v. City Council, 264 N.W.2d 821, 824 (Minn. 1978).
Thompson argues that the board was arbitrary and capricious in refusing to approve the issuance of an off-sale liquor license. He points out that nothing in his application disqualified him from obtaining a liquor license under the state statute. However, the mere fact that an application meets the minimum requirements of the statute does not compel the issuance of a license.
Relying on Wajda, Thompson argues that a denial of a liquor license based on community opposition is arbitrary and capricious. But Wajda is inapposite. In that case, the community complaints were based on improper conduct of the business and patrons while it was under control of previous owners and did not involve Wajda’s personal qualifications. Wajda, 310 Minn. at 343, 246 N.W.2d at 458. Denial of the license on that basis was held to be arbitrary and capricious because the complaints were not rationally related to Wajda herself. Id.
We believe that the facts in this case are more analogous to those presented in Country Liquors, 264 N.W.2d 821. In that case reliance on community opposition in denying a liquor license was held not to be arbitrary and capricious. Id. There, the
[r]esidents’ opposition was based generally on the potentially adverse impact of the proposed liquor store on a number of community programs and institutions.
Id. at 823 n.1. The supreme court determined that
[o]n the facts of this case, the city council’s decision to deny appellants’ transfer application can hardly be described as arbitrary or capricious. The council’s action was the result of specific objections raised by community residents whose lives would be directly affected by the proposed liquor outlet. We would be seriously misguided to characterize the council’s sensitivity toward the special concerns of the North Minneapolis community as arbitrariness. Indeed, the very reason for allowing the council substantial latitude in these matters is to permit adequate consideration of unusual circumstances.
Id. at 824.
The residents in Country Liquors offered no more factual details or substantiation than the residents here.
At oral argument, Thompson conceded that the language of Country Liquors seemed supportive of the town board’s action, but argued that the analyses in E.T.O., Inc. v. Town of Marion, 375 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1985), and Tamarac Inn, Inc. v. City of Long Lake, 310 N.W.2d 474 (Minn. 1981), save his claim. Because neither case is apposite, we disagree.
In E.T.O. the municipality based its denial of a liquor license on an inapplicable statute. E.T.O., 375 N.W.2d at 818. That was held to be legally insufficient. Id.
In Tamarac, the board renewed the applicant’s liquor license while his restaurant was under construction. Tamarac, 310 N.W.2d 474. When the license came up for renewal again, the board denied the application even though the restaurant was far nearer completion than at the previous renewal. The basis for the denial was the lack of completion of the construction. The court held that, considering the considerable expenditures by the applicant, the fact that the restaurant was within days of completion, and the municipality’s prior approval of the renewal, a denial at this point was “manifestly unjust and illustrative of what [constitutes] arbitrary and capricious action.” Tamarac, 310 N.W.2d at 477.
We cannot meaningfully distinguish the residents’ opposition here from that in Country Liquors. It may be that municipal actions on liquor licenses are sui generis and are unlike other licensing cases. But, absent authority contrary to Country Liquors, we are compelled to affirm.