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City Commission draws from hat, granting only one upcoming business desired liquor license

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FARGO—Two incoming Fargo businesses were vying for one available class "Z" liquor license.

It looked more like a raffle than a commission meeting Monday evening.

Believe it or not, a potentially multi-million dollar decision was made by reaching into a hat.

There's a first for everything.

"This is a very unusual situation," said Steve Sprague, Fargo City Auditor.

Both District 64 moving in above Juice it in downtown Fargo and Cowboy Jack's along 4th Street North asked for a class "Z" license, which are limited by Fargo's population.

"Every time population goes up by 10,000 we make an additional license," said Sprague.

City ordinance says only one can be selected, so Fargo's solution was out of the norm.

The city actually opted to pick a name from a hat, the name selected would get the right to purchase the $105,000 dollar license.

The other, would be out of luck.

Owners looked on as commissioner Dave Piepkorn reached in and selected District 64, but the decision doesn't sit right with commissioner Tony Gehrig.

"I don't think it's good policy to decide what bar owner gets a possible multi million dollar business based on a coin flip," said Tony Gehrig, Fargo City Commissioner.

He argues the limited licenses is a poor strategy for liquor control, and he proposed allowing both businesses to purchase a license.

"I've never heard anyone in Fargo say 'boy I can't find a place to drink,'" said Gehrig.

Commissioner John Strand, meanwhile, is hesitant to give too many "Z" licenses.

"At some point I don't know if that's what we want in our downtown, and what point is too far? I don't know what the community wants," said John Strand, Fargo City Commission.

In the end, the commission opted to consider creating an additional license for Cowboy Jack's, David Erickson of After Midnight Group (Cowboy Jack's parent company) which would take more than a month to make its way through the liquor control board and back to the commission for approval.

Neither business was interested in commenting, but Cowboy Jack's remains optimistic a license can be acquired before opening.