Roseville Whiffs on Liquor License for New $3 Million Golf Clubhouse

Municipal golf courses are notorious money losers for the taxpayers of most local governments that get into the game. Just four of 35 municipal courses named in the Minnesota State Auditor’s most recent available report on city finances managed not to run an operating loss in 2016.

In fact, more golf courses have closed than have opened across the country every year since 2006. This year, the City of West St. Paul shut down the 9-hole Thompson Oaks municipal “executive” track after years of losing seasons.

Nevertheless, the Twin Cities suburb of Roseville recently doubled down on its 9-hole course, investing $3 million in a new clubhouse in hopes of ramping up food and liquor sales by appealing to more than golfers.

But as it turns out someone at City Hall forgot to check with state liquor regulators until it was too late. By the time the city realized it’s against the law to sell liquor in their new “10th hole,” the building was already up, according to the Star Tribune.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division determined that municipal golf courses weren’t among those organizations allowed to apply for on-site liquor sales. It threw a wrench into Roseville’s plans for how the new facility could be used.

“It was a surprise to us at the end because we had been working with the state throughout the process,” said City Manager Patrick Trudgeon.

The city could outsource liquor sales, but that would presumably cut into projected revenues to help pay for the place. The option of serving 3.2 beer doesn’t cut it either.

“We just want to make [liquor] available during the day and as part of normal golfing operations,” [Mayor Dan] Roe said.

While municipal courses are rarely revenue drivers, liquor sales on-site could help offset some of the operating and remodeling costs at Cedarholm.

From 2014 through 2016, the city spent about $16,000 more on operating expenses at the course than it brought in through fees and other revenue, according to the latest data from the State Auditor’s office.

As a last ditch effort, Roseville will try pulling strings at the legislature and get a mulligan on the liquor license. But city officials know better than most that the government red tape involved means it’s no gimme.