This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






John Patrick Tabaka, et al.,





Wabedo Township,



Filed April 5, 2005

Klaphake, Judge


Wabedo Township County District Court



Ronald S. Cayko, Fuller, Wallner, Cayko & Pederson, Ltd., 514 America Avenue, P.O. Box 880, Bemidji, MN  56619-0880 (for relators)


Gordon H. Hansmeier, Rajkowski Hansmeier, Ltd., 11 Seventh Avenue North, P.O. Box 1433, St. Cloud, MN  56302-1433 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            By writ of certiorari, relators John Patrick Tabaka and J.A.T., Inc. challenge a decision by respondent Wabedo Township denying their application for an off-sale liquor license at a golf course they own.  Because the township board’s stated reasons were legitimate and involved the public interest and welfare, the board’s decision denying relator’s application was not arbitrary and capricious.  We therefore affirm.


            Municipal licensing authorities have broad discretion to decide the manner in which liquor licenses are issued, regulated, and revoked.  Bourbon Bar & Cafe Corp. v. City of St. Paul, 466 N.W.2d 438, 440 (Minn. App. 1991); see Sabes v. City of Minneapolis, 265 Minn. 166, 171, 120 N.W.2d 871, 875 (1963) (stating that no citizen has an inherent or vested right to sell intoxicating liquors).  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).  An applicant carries the burden of demonstrating the arbitrariness of the authority’s action.  See Country Liquors, Inc. v. City Council, 264 N.W.2d 821, 824 (Minn. 1978).

            Relators argue that the township board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because relators met all of the statutory requirements to support the issuance of the license.  See Minn. Stat §§ 340A.402, .405, subd. 2(c), .410, subd. 1, .412, subd. 4 (2002).  While a licensing authority must consider an application that satisfies the minimum requirements, it is “by no means divested of its legislative authority and responsibility to pass upon the merits of the application.”  Country Liquors, 264 N.W.2d at 824.

            Thus the township board retained the authority and responsibility to consider and pass upon the merits of the application.  In particular, the board gave specific reasons for denying relators’ application for an off-sale liquor license.  Those reasons relate to (1) resident opposition to the granting of an off-sale liquor license in the township; (2) the existence of four off-sale liquor stores within four miles of the township; (3) the potentially adverse effects on the public welfare, as stated in the letter from officials from the nearby city of Longville; (4) lack of harm to relators, who have on-sale and Sunday licenses and can sell liquor inside the club house and from golf carts under these licenses; and (5) the comprehensive plan’s goal to balance the need for limited commercial development while protecting the rural character of the majority of the township.

            Relators insist that the reasons cited by the township board are insufficient and without a basis in the record.  In particular, relators claim:  (1) far more favorable than unfavorable comments were made at the March 2004 meetings; (2) the changes in the law, which have loosened the restrictions and now allow golf courses to sell liquor from carts without an off-sale license, tend to favor approval;  (3) allowing off-sales at the golf course would not be against the comprehensive plan and would not adversely affect the rural character of the township because a commercial use already exists at this location; (4) nothing in the comprehensive plan specifically directs the township to work with the city to establish a business environment; (5) the letter from city officials who were opposed to the application failed to cite any evidence to support the city’s claim that city revenues would be diminished and that such a conclusion is speculative; (6) the petition drafted by relators was not misleading; and (7) public support for their application was overwhelming.

            We are not persuaded by relators’ arguments.  Relators assume a type of “majority rules” position, in which the township board should be forced to grant it an off-sale license if a greater number of township residents spoke in favor of the grant than against it.  Relators further assume that the township board cannot consider the potentially adverse effects that an off-sale license might have on the revenues collected by the city of Longville from its own municipal liquor store.  Relators finally disagree with the township board’s reading and implementation of the comprehensive plan.  Acceptance of relators’ arguments would have us second-guess the board’s decision and ignore the board’s discretion, which we will not do.

            In Country Liquors, 264 N.W.2d at 824, the supreme court upheld a city council’s decision as not arbitrary and capricious.  In particular, the council relied on specific objections raised by residents whose lives would be directly affected by the granting of the application.  Similarly, here, although a number of residents supported the grant of the application, the board heard testimony from other residents who opposed the license and from city officials of nearby Longville.

            In Polman v. City of Royalton, 311 Minn. 555, 556, 249 N.W.2d 466, 467 (1977), the supreme court noted that a licensing authority has the power to refuse a license or to limit the number of licenses to be granted when in its judgment, such action is necessary to protect the welfare of the city.  While the city council in Polman denied the license because the “three existing establishments [already] fulfilled the need of the community and over-taxed the city’s limited traffic and law enforcement facilities,” a concern for the welfare of the public easily encompasses a licensing authority’s desire, as here, to limit the number of establishments within a geographic area so as to prevent the diminishment of revenues from a nearby municipal liquor store.  Id. at 566, 249 N.W.2d at 466.

            In Tamarac Inn, Inc. v. City of Long Lake, 310 N.W.2d 474 (Minn. 1981), the board renewed the applicant’s liquor license while his restaurant was under construction, but when the license came up for renewal, the board denied the application even though the restaurant was far nearer completion than at the previous renewal.  In reversing the board’s decision, the supreme 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 that point was “manifestly unjust and illustrative of what [constitutes] arbitrary and capricious action.”  Id. at 477.

            Here, no “manifest injustice” has been done to relators.  The township board considered the adverse effects a denial would have on relators, but found that they “will not suffer” because the golf course “has Sunday and On-Sale liquor” licenses and because the “[l]aws have changed and there is no need for an off-sale liquor license to sell liquor from the cart[s] on the course.”  The board further found that although relators claim that they relied upon the township board’s 1999 decision to grant them an off-sale license, they took no further action and allowed the license to lapse and they completed their new club house without first obtaining an off-sale license.  The township board considered relators’ interests and concerns, and found them to be outweighed by the interest of the public.

            Finally, relators suggest that the township board’s true reason for denying their application was “personal animosity between license applicant Tabaka and the current Board.”  Relators refer to two “transcripts,” which are included in the record prepared by the township, of telephone calls allegedly made by relator Tabaka to one of the members of the township board.  Relators challenge the authenticity of these transcripts and insist that they are highly prejudicial.  Although the transcripts are included in the record sent to this court, the calls were not about the golf course or relators’ application here, and appear to refer to a fence on another piece of property.  The calls were not mentioned in the findings of the township board and do not appear to have influenced the board’s decision.  We therefore reject relators’ claim that the township board’s decision was unduly or improperly influenced by personal animosity.

            The decision of the township board denying relators’ application for an off-sale liquor license is affirmed.