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Liquor is back at Wahpeton bar, but license for topless entertainment still in question

The Oasis Stage Bar and Package Store, 512 Dakota Ave., in Wahpeton, N.D. as seen Jan. 16, 2018. Forum file photo

WAHPETON, N.D. — The Oasis Stage Bar and Package Store is back to selling liquor, but it may take special action by city leaders to reissue the bar's cabaret license so it can again offer topless entertainment.

The City Council voted 7-0 Monday, Jan. 5, to reissue the Class A liquor license for the Oasis, said Darcie Huwe, city finance director and auditor. However, the council did not move to reissue the bar's Class 1 cabaret license.

Owner Matt Pausch asked the council to reconsider re-issuing the cabaret license, Huwe said. The council will discuss the issue at committee meetings Feb. 14 and 15, she said.

A city ordinance says there is a limit of two Class 1 cabaret licenses, and only Class A liquor license holders can apply for a cabaret license. But the ordinance also says Class 1 cabaret licenses can't be transfered or renewed if they lapse.

Huwe said the council would have to vote to make an exception to the ordinance to renew a cabaret license.

The mayor referred the issue to the finance and public works and public safety committee, Huwe said. For now, the Oasis, at 512 Dakota Ave., can only host such events as trivia, live music and karaoke.

Pausch said Wednesday, Feb. 7, that he would not comment on the issue until he meets with city officials at next week's meetings.

The brouhaha over licensing came at an awkward time for the Oasis, the only bar in Wahpeton offering topless entertainment.

Pausch had recently asked city officials to change the existing ordinance to allow his bar to offer lap dances to patrons. The ordinance prohibits contact between performers and patrons — including a lap dance, which involves a dancer sitting and gyrating on a seated customer.

The bar was closed for a time after Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson received a letter from the North Dakota Attorney General's Office dated Jan. 25 saying the Oasis and its owner had allowed the state liquor license to lapse and that the chief must take steps to ensure the bar did not sell liquor.

Thorsteinson said the bar's city liquor and cabaret licenses are contingent on Pausch having a valid state license. Pausch surrendered the city licenses, the chief said.

Thorsteinson said he was notified about 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, that Pausch had gotten the state license for the Oasis renewed. The council then had to act on the city liquor license for sales to resume.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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